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Old 12-13-2012, 01:30 AM   #51
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Please explain why the Suez Canal was so vitally important to the Axis, and how not capturing it contributed in large measure to their ultimate defeat.
Without the Suez, Britain is cut off from one its quickest and most important sources of oil and access to India. It's less a matter of importance to the Axis as much as it is important to deny its control to the Allies.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:42 PM   #52
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Please explain why the Suez Canal was so vitally important to the Axis, and how not capturing it contributed in large measure to their ultimate defeat.

I'm not so sure that giving Rommel the extra 2.5 armored divisions he requested would have helped nearly as much as another flotilla of submarines, a couple of wings of aircraft and a few more surface warships and cargo ships. What battles did Rommel lose because he didn't have more armour? I'd suggest his biggest problem was the logistical difficulty of supplying an army in Egypt from a base 1500 km away at Tripoli, when all the supplies had to first cross the Mediterranean from Europe. Most of the fuel shipped past Malta to the Afrika Korps was consumed trucking it to the front. Adding another 2.5 armoured divisions would have greatly increased his supply difficulties. There is reason to doubt that the Axis had enough shipping available in theatre to transport across the Med the supplies needed by 2.5 more armoured divisions, nor the trucks to move it down the roads once it arrived in Tripoli.
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I would add that once it was clear that Britain would not just roll over, the Germans should have focused on taking the Suez canal. That would have put in place a set of circumstances which would have made Britain almost irrelevant for the remainder of the war.

1. Axis takes and controls Suez canal and Gibralter. Mediterranean becomes a virtual Axis lake, Britain has to go around Africa to provide support to Middle East, India, etc.

2. Germans continue from Egypt to invade and control the Middle East and Persia. At that point Turkey will be surrounded and will have no choice to at least allow land passage for Germany. Germany will have unlimited Oil Supplies. Germany will have control over the Balkans and Greece as Britain can no longer support their influence in those regions.

3. Germans will have Russia flanked from the South and will be in position to capture their oil fields once they decide to invade. Also, it would take less troops and attention to defend Europe as defenders could be concentrated along the coast lines.

Rommel and Guderian both saw these opportunities, but Hitler could not be convinced. Instead, Hitler ignored all prior success based on attacking where the enemy was weak emplying mobile tactics, in favor of direct, head on attacks which became battles of attrition on the Eastern Front.
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:34 AM   #53
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Please explain why the Suez Canal was so vitally important to the Axis, and how not capturing it contributed in large measure to their ultimate defeat.
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Originally Posted by Turn Prophet View Post
Without the Suez, Britain is cut off from one its quickest and most important sources of oil and access to India. It's less a matter of importance to the Axis as much as it is important to deny its control to the Allies.
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I would add that once it was clear that Britain would not just roll over, the Germans should have focused on taking the Suez canal. That would have put in place a set of circumstances which would have made Britain almost irrelevant for the remainder of the war.

1. Axis takes and controls Suez canal and Gibralter. Mediterranean becomes a virtual Axis lake, Britain has to go around Africa to provide support to Middle East, India, etc.

2. Germans continue from Egypt to invade and control the Middle East and Persia. At that point Turkey will be surrounded and will have no choice to at least allow land passage for Germany. Germany will have unlimited Oil Supplies. Germany will have control over the Balkans and Greece as Britain can no longer support their influence in those regions.

3. Germans will have Russia flanked from the South and will be in position to capture their oil fields once they decide to invade. Also, it would take less troops and attention to defend Europe as defenders could be concentrated along the coast lines.

Rommel and Guderian both saw these opportunities, but Hitler could not be convinced. Instead, Hitler ignored all prior success based on attacking where the enemy was weak emplying mobile tactics, in favor of direct, head on attacks which became battles of attrition on the Eastern Front.
The British controlled the Suez Canal throughout the war. Despite this, for almost all that time, they did not use it for transportation between Great Britain and India or Persia because it was too dangerous to send ships through the Mediterranean. The loss of the Suez Canal would not have had any significant effect on transportation between Britain and the East.

My father served in Britain, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, India and Burma. The only time he went into the Mediterranean was a swim at the beach while on leave in Tunisia, after the Germans left Africa. He never took a ship in the Med. He got from Britain to Egypt by going around the Cape of Good Hope in a troop transport. That's how almost all transport between Britain and the East was routed.

The canal was only strategically significant during the war as a route to bring a few troops from the East to the Italian campaign and the campaigns in Greece and Yugoslavia that Churchill wanted but the US vetoed. As such it was of little strategic influence on the fate of the Axis powers.

The notion that the Axis ever had any real chance of capturing Persian or Iraqi oil fields via a land-based campaign based on Africa is fantasy. There is an outside chance that with better logistics management and a diversion of significant forces (mostly naval and air) to the Mediterranean, Rommel might have reached the Suez Canal. Then he would have been at the end of a very long logistics trail facing a British Army based on Iraq and Palestine, reinforced from India, that had a shorter supply route. (British Australian, Free French and Indian forces had elminated pro-Axis resistance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine before Rommel's first offensive ground to a halt at the Libyan/Egyptian frontier.) Rommel would have had to get across the canal, and then also cross the Jordan rift valley, conquer the Tigris and Euprhates valley and advance well into Persia.

All of this would first necessitate the capture of Malta and and the neutralization of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. It does not seem the Axis powers felt they had the forces to accomplish either of these goals. The diversion of the forces necessary for a successful German campaign against Iraq/Persia would have required a postponement of the war against Russia by two years (or doomed any invasion that went in on the original schedule.). It would be foolish to think that Russia would stand idly by while Germany was developing a military threat to Persa.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:35 AM   #54
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

Very nice post DTM.
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:30 PM   #55
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post

The canal was only strategically significant during the war as a route to bring a few troops from the East to the Italian campaign and the campaigns in Greece and Yugoslavia that Churchill wanted but the US vetoed. As such it was of little strategic influence on the fate of the Axis powers.
There are entire military history books based the premise that the Suez Canal was the key to holding the Mediterreanean Sea and North Africa. Those goals were not an end in themselves, they were important for opportunities they represented to the Axis.

Assuming Hitler was not going to be deterred from invading Russia at some point, the "Victory through Egypt" plan would have allowed the Axis to threaten a flanking operation against Russia. Also, turning the Mediterranean into an "Axis Lake" would have effectively removed Great Britain as a threat before Hitler invaded Russia (as opposed to hoping a capitulation by Russia would force Great Britain to capitulate as well).

As things were, Great Britain supplied its Africa Defense through Egypt. Materiel and troops were indeed sent around the Cape and up the Red Sea. It was too dangerous to move supplies through the Mediterranean (but it was still done as needed, but the risks were severe). Taking the Suez Canal would have given control of North Africa to the Axis; Malta would have died on the vine as there would have been no practical way for the Allies to supply it.

In 1940, after France was defeated, Britain only had one armoured division defending the Suez Canal - Germany had 20 idle armoured divisions. It could have taken the Canal with just a fraction of that. From there, French North Africa could have been taken (it was an error for Hitler not to insist on these territories to be handed over to him to begin with after the fall of France) without much effort.

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The notion that the Axis ever had any real chance of capturing Persian or Iraqi oil fields via a land-based campaign based on Africa is fantasy.
This is certainly true. What "might have happened" depends on certain preliminary steps. For these steps to have been accomplished, we have to analyse the war "as it didn't happen" as opposed to what actually happened. As it actually happened, Hitler decided not to seek victory through North Africa, so as we go down the line, we will always run into, "but, "x" "y" and "z" actually happened, so "a" "b" and "c" was impossible given that certain factors would have been preventing "a" "b" and "c" from happening. I am drawing a line in 1941; a specific time from where things "jump off" from. Here, capturing the Suez Canal would have led to the Axis securing North Africa and the entire Mediterranean as a result. Churchill saw this as did most of the German military leaders. Hitler did not see it (at the very least, he did not appreciate it).


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There is an outside chance that with better logistics management and a diversion of significant forces (mostly naval and air) to the Mediterranean, Rommel might have reached the Suez Canal. Then he would have been at the end of a very long logistics trail facing a British Army based on Iraq and Palestine, reinforced from India, that had a shorter supply route. (British Australian, Free French and Indian forces had elminated pro-Axis resistance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine before Rommel's first offensive ground to a halt at the Libyan/Egyptian frontier.) Rommel would have had to get across the canal, and then also cross the Jordan rift valley, conquer the Tigris and Euprhates valley and advance well into Persia.

All of this would first necessitate the capture of Malta and and the neutralization of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. It does not seem the Axis powers felt they had the forces to accomplish either of these goals. The diversion of the forces necessary for a successful German campaign against Iraq/Persia would have required a postponement of the war against Russia by two years (or doomed any invasion that went in on the original schedule.)
This is not how it would play out. First of all, this scenario contemplates Rommel actually being given the resources to capture Egypt. Instead, Hitler only sent Rommel (along with 1.5) armored divisions after the Italians proved they were incompetent under Graziani. Once Rommel was committed, he still could have accomplished the job had he been given the 4 divisions he requested (as it was, what he was given was still provided ad hoc so it was difficult for him to actually "launch" his campaign in full force - he had to make due with what he had without the expectation of getting much more than that. It does not take much imagination to see that if Rommel was promised proper resupply, he would have been even more agressive and thus more effective against the Allies that had no answer for his tactics).

Once Egypt was captured, the "long supply line" would have turned into a direct supply line in short order as Malta could not be held by the Allies without a reasonable chance of resupply. Without the Suez Canal, the Allies could not maintain a presence in North Africa. At that point, with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria already supporting the Axis, Yugoslavia and Greece would have come to terms without the Axis firing a shot (as there was no longer any chance of support from the Allies - as it was, it was a close call that the Allies were going to actually help defend Greece; that they did so under the actual circumstances was probably a mistake).

Also, from Egypt, the Axis could overrun the eastern Mediterranean up to the Turkish border as well as the Arabian peninsula, Syria Iraq and Iran. The fact of the matter is that these areas did not have much of a military presence (indeed, they were held in place by outside forces - in this case those from Great Britain) and politically, they leaned either way. If the Axis took over from Great Britain, these areas would fall right into place. What is important here is not only did these areas provide oil, but they would allow the Axis to isolate Turkey and move its troops within striking distance of the Caucasus and Caspian Sea. Being in a pinch, Turkey would (at the very least) be forced to provide the Axis transit rights thus securing them a land route directly to the middle east.

At this point, the Axis has Russia threatened from both the West and South.

Far from providing logistical problems, the result of this plan actually solved a number of logistical problems and would have allowed the Axis to concentrate its forces for defense at vital points and free up more resources for the attack on Russia.

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It would be foolish to think that Russia would stand idly by while Germany was developing a military threat to Persa
I believe there is nothing to support this notion. Indeed, Stalin, despite being provided hundreds of reports of Axis build up at his borders and (accurate) reports of when and where Barbarossa would begin, did nothing of substance to prevent it. Given that he purposely buried his head in the sand regarding direct threats to Russia, there is nothing to support the notion that he would do anything to support Persia.

This scenario was only "fantasy" in the sense it did not happen. Indeed, the opportunity was appreciated by many, it was analyzed, it was proposed under the circumstances as they existed at the time. Many thought it was the best avenue for victory, however it was not not chosen by Hitler - hence it being one of his biggest mistakes of the war.

This forum is a poor place to really lay out the entire argument. I recommend "How Hitler Could Have Won World War II" by Bevin Alexander for a full treatment of Hitler's crucial mistakes - including the failure to take the Suez Canal.

Last edited by Oski; 12-29-2012 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 12-30-2012, 04:09 AM   #56
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

The Axis had incredible difficulties supplying the meager force Rommel had in North Africa. It seems pretty unlikely they were capable of supplying forces 10x larger. You are also purposing the Axis try to capture Gibralter to cut off Malta then?
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:43 AM   #57
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The Axis had incredible difficulties supplying the meager force Rommel had in North Africa. It seems pretty unlikely they were capable of supplying forces 10x larger. You are also purposing the Axis try to capture Gibralter to cut off Malta then?
Those difficulties were tied directly to the fact that Hitler only approved a half-assed approach to begin with. Even with what he had, Rommel almost took Egypt. He asked for 4 divisions (and to lead the attack from the beginning). Instead, he was given 1 armored and 1 light division - and he did not take over the operation until Graziani utterly failed.

Notice that we are only talking about 4 divisions (not 15 - thus not 10x) and these divisions would have been deployed at once, and at a time the Allies only had one division in North Africa. This situation was no secret - building up the Egypt defenses was a crucial requirement in Churchill's eyes.

Once the Suez Canal is taken, North Africa falls to the Axis - Gibralter is a non factor. Furthermore, an attack on Malta would not go through Gibralter. Anyway, Hitler was always keen on taking Gibralter and he had meetings with Franco to gain transport rights (if not their cooperation) but Franco did not agree (actually, he just refused to agree or disagree). After that, Hitler abandoned the plan.

With North Africa secured, the Mediterranean becomes an Axis Lake - that does not have to be entered from the Atlantic. Also, because the Axis could extend their submarine ports to the Atlantic in France and also Africa, it would have been too costly for the Allies maintain Gibralter as it could not really be re supplied (and it would serve little purpose, anyway).
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:15 AM   #58
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Those difficulties were tied directly to the fact that Hitler only approved a half-assed approach to begin with.
No they were tied to the EXTREME advantage in naval power the allies held. And to a lesser extent, the allies' advantage in air power. Modern armies can't live off the land; they need fuel, ammunition and food constantly shipped in. More troops means more needed supplies. And there is no way to reliably get them there. This is a crucial problem that can't just be handwaved away.

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Once the Suez Canal is taken, North Africa falls to the Axis - Gibralter is a non factor. Furthermore, an attack on Malta would not go through Gibralter.
No, the problem is you need to take Gibralter if you want to starve out Malta. The other option is a very risky and costly attack directly on Malta.

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With North Africa secured, the Mediterranean becomes an Axis Lake - that does not have to be entered from the Atlantic.
You keep saying this. Why was the Mediterranean not an Axis Lake already? Surely not because there were English ground troops in Egypt.

Furthermore, the whole plan reminds me of kids i used to coach in chess imagining what their attack would look like if they got to make 6 straight moves. The world would not fail to react to Germany somehow overrunning the Middle East. The Russians would never, ever allow the Germans to make a deal with the Ottomans. How many troops would be needed to garrison all of North Africa and the Middle East and how will they be supplied? I would think you would need many to prevent a landing in your rear severing your supply lines. How many troops are you sending to the Caucauses? How many divisions can you supply at the end of those long, long supply lines? And how will those divisions fair isolated against the full might of the Red Army when war comes?
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Old 12-31-2012, 03:45 PM   #59
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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No they were tied to the EXTREME advantage in naval power the allies held. And to a lesser extent, the allies' advantage in air power. Modern armies can't live off the land; they need fuel, ammunition and food constantly shipped in. More troops means more needed supplies. And there is no way to reliably get them there. This is a crucial problem that can't just be handwaved away.
Nothing is "handwaved" away. The Allies supply lines for materiel and other supplies (excluding fuel) was the longest in history, yet they were able to be supplied. The only advantage the Allies had on the supply side was for fuel as it they had a route from the middle east and persia.

For some reason, you keep ignoring that the initial plan supported by Rommel called for 4 divisions. At the campaign's peak, the Germans had 4.5 divisions - the fundamental problem is that such were committed ad hoc. Had Rommel been supplied with these units (which were available and not being used at the time) all the beginning of the campaign, he could have met his objective of capturing the Suez Canal which was the gateway to the middle east and persia. From there is would not have been too difficult to secure an oil supply. As for everything else, the Axis supply line was much shorter.


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No, the problem is you need to take Gibralter if you want to starve out Malta. The other option is a very risky and costly attack directly on Malta.
I disagree. As I stated earlier, Gibralter did not have to be taken directly. If the Axis holds North Africa, they could have an Atlantic base for u-boats to interdict supply routes to Gibralter (to add to those on the French coast).

The Allies did not have unlimited resources (at least prior to the U.S. entering the war) - thus they would have to consider the purpose of Malta (and Gibralter for that matter) in light of North Africa being in the Axis' hands. I think it is reasonable to consider the primary purpose of Malta is to prevent North Africa and the Suez Canal from falling. Once that happens, what purpose would it serve?

In any event, if one needs to entertain that Malta had to be invaded, you must recall that Hitler sent a significant number of troops (including all of his paratroopers) to capture Crete. This was a target of minimal value as it was only relevant as a piece of the Allies scheme to protect North Africa - but for the Axis, it would essentially be of no use. However, Crete did not have to be attacked directly - it would be rendered irrelevant if Egypt was taken.

In any event, the point is that instead of attacking Malta, Hitler invaded Crete.


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You keep saying this. Why was the Mediterranean not an Axis Lake already? Surely not because there were English ground troops in Egypt.
The Allied bases at Gibralter, Malta and Alexandria (and to a lesser extent, Crete) prevented the Mediterranean from being an Axis Lake. However, these defenses had to each be in place for the others to be effective (and relevant).

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Furthermore, the whole plan reminds me of kids i used to coach in chess imagining what their attack would look like if they got to make 6 straight moves. The world would not fail to react to Germany somehow overrunning the Middle East. The Russians would never, ever allow the Germans to make a deal with the Ottomans. How many troops would be needed to garrison all of North Africa and the Middle East and how will they be supplied? I would think you would need many to prevent a landing in your rear severing your supply lines. How many troops are you sending to the Caucauses? How many divisions can you supply at the end of those long, long supply lines? And how will those divisions fair isolated against the full might of the Red Army when war comes?
I appreciate your point about the chess moves, but it seems that you believe all chess moves are equal. I am not well versed in chess, but one can see that certain moves will set in place a sequence of moves where the other player is forced to react in certain ways or capitulate. Of course, the only way to break this chain (once set in motion) is to provide a brilliant counter. I don't believe the Allies had the resources at the time to do more than react to what the Axis was doing,

Here, you say the "world" would not fail to react to the Germans overruning the middle east. Who is the "world" in this case outside the primary belligerants? What non-belligerant was going to all of a sudden step in and make a difference? Are we to ignore the fact that outside of Great Britain and the commonwealth, nobody was actually fighting for the Allies at that time? Most other countries (including Russia) were caught in the middle and trying to position themselves as best they could (which at that time meant avoiding conflict with Hitler). Even those countries that had already been invaded were holding out hope that Hitler false promises of self-government and quasi-autonomy were true. Of course, they were not. In any event, the point is that there was no white knight that was ready to come in a save the day.

You keep mentioning that Russia wouldn't allow this and that. However, once again, Stalin was trying to keep Russia out of a war with Hitler. Indeed, Stalin was provided reports time and again that the Axis was building up for an attack against Russia; he was told when and where the attacks would take place - and he did nothing.

Now, you are saying "Stalin would do this and that" regarding the welfare of other countries opposing Hitler, but he did nothing when confronted with the certainty that Hitler was about to attack Russia. There is simply no evidence to support this notion.

As far as where troops would be and how they would be protected, you ignore the fact that certain acts change the state of the war. "Fortress Europa" would have been realized and it could have been defended with minimal troop commitment (again, we are not talking about kicking off Barbarossa at the same time or under the same conditions as it actually was) It is true that as the Axis gained more territory, there was more to defend. However, most of the areas to defend would be consolidated allowing more resources to be deployed where needed.

Your last point about these "long, long supply lines" just does not take into account any of the conditions that would change as this scenario unfolds. The Axis standing on a new frontier opposing the Caucauses would get its oil from the middle east. (Where did the Allies get their oil?) They would be supplied either overland (through Turkey) or through ports in the middle east, and Persia (how were the Allies being supplied?)

Finally, you seem to assume that I am arguing something more than "Hilter made a mistake due to the fact there were better options available." I am not guaranteeing that he would have won the war, I am simply pointing out that the choices he made were mistakes because they decreased his chance of meeting his objectives in light of better options. In this case, had Hilter taken the Suez Canal, he would have provided the Axis with far more options and possibilities for winning the war.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:51 AM   #60
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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There are entire military history books based the premise that the Suez Canal was the key to holding the Mediterreanean Sea and North Africa.
Cite?

Either the Suez Canal or the Staits of Gibralter provided an entree into the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to control the Med, you need both, (ignoring the nearly non-existant threat posed by Russia through the Bosporous/Dardanelles), or complete air superiority from land bases in the middle and at each end. In 1940-1942 neither side had control of the Med, though after Taranto, the Royal Navy certainly had naval supremacy.

The loss of Egypt and the Canal would probably have led to the eventual removal of British Naval presence in the Eastern Med, but not the Western Med or Malta. However, the loss of Egypt was unlikely without the prior loss of Malta.

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Those goals were not an end in themselves, they were important for opportunities they represented to the Axis.
What are these "opportunities"? The denial of British supply transport through the Med was already accomplished. So the only potentially significant opportunities presented to the Axis by posession of the Suez Canal were the tying of Italy's North African conquests with its East African conquests, or the use of Egypt as a German springboard to Iraq, Persia and the southern flank of the Soviet Union. You are suggesting that this latter opportunity was real and potentially strategically decisive. I am suggesting that the opportunity was illusory and if it had been pursued, it would have been strategically negative for Germany.

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Assuming Hitler was not going to be deterred from invading Russia at some point, the "Victory through Egypt" plan would have allowed the Axis to threaten a flanking operation against Russia.
When? Is it intended that the threat develop before any actual attack on Russia? If so, what you are really saying is that Hitler made a mistake by attacking Russa in 1941 instead of 1943. (I'll address this timing issue, below.)

Where is this threat to be developed? I presume that you mean through Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Through Turkmenistan and Uzbeckistan would dissipate the effort whlie greatly increasing the supply and coordination problems. I also presume you are not suggesting that Germany violate Turkish neutrality - doing so would put at risk Axis control of the Med.

So, have you considered what sort of forces it would take for a German army to force passage through the Caucasus? The terrain is totally unsuitable for mobile warfare. How were these forces to be supplied? Don't you realize it would be trivial for the Russians to put a blocking force in the way and keep it well-supplied? A flank attack is only a credible threat if the forces that would make it can get to the flank while the flank is unprotected, or can overcome any flank protection the defenders put in place. The nature of the terrain and the communications routes of the respective sides render laughable a threat of a German flank attack on the USSR through the Caucasus .

If there was a credible German strategic objective beyond Suez, it would be taking control of the Middle East oilfields, or at least denying their use to the British. Given that only a fraction of the oil imported by Britain during the war came from the Mddle East, control would have been far more important to the Axis than inderdiction. However, it would be unlikely that the Gerrmans would be able to maintain such control as long as the Russians remained undefeated. It would be a lot easier for the Russians to mount an invasion of Persia through the Caucasus, than it would be for the Germans to attack in the opposite direction. And British forces in India would almost certainly have been enough to prevent the Germans from gaining control of working oilfields in Iraq/Kuwait. Then there is the small problem of getting the oil from Iraq or Arabia to Germany. It would have been impossible for Germany or Italy to keep the Royal Navy away form the entrance to the Red Sea, even if the German army took the naval base at Aden.

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Also, turning the Mediterranean into an "Axis Lake" would have effectively removed Great Britain as a threat...
How? Britain's ability to fight against the Germans was in no way predicated on retaining a Mediterranean or African presence. Turning the Mediterranean into an Axis Lake merely reduces British threats to Italian Mediterranean interests. It probably makes no difference regarding loss of Italian East Africa, and unless Gibralter is also taken, the capture of Suez doesn't innoculate the Axis powers from an invasion of France or Italy from bases in Algeria or Tunisia. Remember that the Torch landings in no way depended on British naval presence in the Eastern Med. Even the loss of Gibralter would not have prevented landings on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco.

The whole point of WWII, from the Geman point of view, was a decisive victory over Russia. If that could be achieved, continental Europe would be safe. Peripheral matters such as control of the Med could be left for later.

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... before Hitler invaded Russia (as opposed to hoping a capitulation by Russia would force Great Britain to capitulate as well).

As things were, Great Britain supplied its Africa Defense through Egypt. Materiel and troops were indeed sent around the Cape and up the Red Sea.
Yes, but most of these were disembarked at Suez, not sent through the Canal.

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It was too dangerous to move supplies through the Mediterranean (but it was still done as needed, but the risks were severe). Taking the Suez Canal would have given control of North Africa to the Axis;
I think you have that backwards. It would be necessary to have control of North Africa in order to take the Suez Canal.

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Malta would have died on the vine as there would have been no practical way for the Allies to supply it.
?!? Malta was supplied by convoys that came through Gibralter. Losing Egypt does little to prevent thr Allies from supplying Malta via Gibralter.

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In 1940, after France was defeated, Britain only had one armoured division defending the Suez Canal - Germany had 20 idle armoured divisions.
That's a rather sloppy claim. In September 1939, Gemany had 5 operational armoured divisions and 4 Light Divisions. Over the winter of 39-40, the Light Divisons were converted to Armoured Divisions and a tenth Armoured division was activiated. When France was defeated in June 1940, Germany had ten battle-damaged armoured divisions, in need of reinforcement, replenishment and rest. Between August and October, Germany formed 10 new armoured divisisons, by the expedient of removing half the tank regiments from the existing armoured divisions and combining them with the staffs and fighting regiments of infantry divisions and designating these new formations as armoured divisions. None of these ten newly-formed divisions, and few of the original ten were in any way ready for operations until the spring of 1941.

As it was, when the Italians made preparations for offensive operations in North Africa, Germany offered to send two armoured divisons in support - one immediately and one to follow. 3rd Armoured division was ordered to prepare for deployment to Libya, and it seems likely that 2nd Armored Division was to be made available for Africa after it was withdrawn from the Balkan Campaign. Hitler repeated the offer of two armoured divisions when he met with Mussolini in early October, but the offer was refused. Mussolini would only be interested in support for the planned third phase of the offensive - to take Alexandria and Cairo - many months in the future.

In February 1941, after O'Conner's offensvie had kicked the Italians out of Egypt and Cyrenaica, and reduced Italian forces in North Africa to a tiny fraction of their former levels, Mussolini was finally prepared to accept German forces in Libya. I think I know what 17 of the 20 German armoured divisions were doing in February. Only one of these, 7th Armoured Division, was in a state that could conceivably be considered "idle"- it formed the Army's strategic mobile reserve. About half of the divisions were preparing for operations in Yugoslavia and Greece. Most of the rest were guarding the eastern front against the largest army in the world.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
It could have taken the Canal with just a fraction of that.
The objective was Russia. The Russians had more and better tanks than the Germans did. The Germans needed every armoured division they could spare. Reducing their armoured forces by 20% while going ahead with the invasion was just not on.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
From there, French North Africa could have been taken (it was an error for Hitler not to insist on these territories to be handed over to him to begin with after the fall of France) without much effort.
What did Germany need French North Africa for? The more territory you take, the more forces you need for occupation duties.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This is certainly true. What "might have happened" depends on certain preliminary steps. For these steps to have been accomplished, we have to analyse the war "as it didn't happen" as opposed to what actually happened. As it actually happened, Hitler decided not to seek victory through North Africa, so as we go down the line, we will always run into, "but, "x" "y" and "z" actually happened, so "a" "b" and "c" was impossible given that certain factors would have been preventing "a" "b" and "c" from happening. I am drawing a line in 1941; a specific time from where things "jump off" from.
It's good to know the timelines you have in mind. You're talking about decisions made in 1941. OK. In 1941 the only decisions that could have been made to allow your fanatasy to unfold would be to postpone Barbarossa for a year or two. The Germans were unwilling to do this. They believed that a Russian attack was inevitable, and might come as early as winter 41-42. Furthemore, the Russians, who already had a significant lead in tanks and aircraft, many of which were better than the German models, were outproducing Germany. Any delay would give Russia an even greater materiel advantage.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Here, capturing the Suez Canal would have led to the Axis securing North Africa and the entire Mediterranean as a result. Churchill saw this as did most of the German military leaders. Hitler did not see it (at the very least, he did not appreciate it).
Capturing the Suez canal alone would not inevitably lead to securing all of North Africa. Deploying the forces necessary for the Axis to secure North Africa and the entire Mediterranean, (which would have required the invasion of Spain and the capture of Malta), would delay the invasion of Russia until spring of 1942 (assuming all went well in the expanded Mediterranenan campaign) or later, and reduce the forces available for the invasion while Russian forces were growing. Having a force in place to threaten the Caucasus from the south would require yet another year.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This is not how it would play out. First of all, this scenario contemplates Rommel actually being given the resources to capture Egypt.
IOW your scencaio contemplates delaying the invasion of Russia until at least 1942.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead, Hitler only sent Rommel (along with 1.5) armored divisions after the Italians proved they were incompetent under Graziani. Once Rommel was committed, he still could have accomplished the job had he been given the 4 divisions he requested
We'll get to the four divisions and the force requirements a bit later.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
(as it was, what he was given was still provided ad hoc so it was difficult for him to actually "launch" his campaign in full force
He wasn't sent over to launch a campaign. He was sent over to prevent the Italians being bounced out of Libya entirely, after they lost nearly their whole North African army to a force 1/6 its size. They were sent ad hoc because the Italian collapse was so sudden and unexpected. The Germans scraped together whatever scraps they had available - because that is all that was available. There was no pool of 20 armoured divisions sitting around with nothing to do.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
- he had to make due [sic] with what he had without the expectation of getting much more than that. It does not take much imagination to see that if Rommel was promised proper resupply, he would have been even more agressive and thus more effective against the Allies that had no answer for his tactics).
How was he supposed to get proper resupply with Malta in British hands, and the Royal Navy secure in both Alexandria and Gibralter? The only way to properly supply the forces Rommel would need to take the Canal would be to first capture Malta, and then find a way to neutralize the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. Securing the Med would also require capturing Gibralter. Capturing Gibralter would require an invasion of Spain. The Germans developed a plan for that - Operation Felix. For very good reasons, Spain would not agree to enter the war under the terms the Germans suggested. Prioceedinh without Spanish agreement would It would require 2/3 of the armoured force they used to invade France. It would also probably require the invasion of Portugal and the deployment of at least two infantry corps and a couple armoured divisions as occupation forces. All those troops were needed for the Eastern Front. The Germans correctly concluded that the Mediterranean and other English interests could be dealt with after the Russians had been defeated.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Once Egypt was captured, the "long supply line" would have turned into a direct supply line in short order as Malta could not be held by the Allies without a reasonable chance of resupply.
Malta was not dependent on the Canal for resupply. Most of Malta's resupply came through Gibralter. Also, even with Malta gone, the Axis would still not have a direct supply route. They would still need to deal with the Royal Navy, who would be based in Gibralter and Haifa, (and if the forces used to take Crete were used instead to take Malta, the Royal Navy would operate out of Crete too.) They would still need to truck all their supplies down from Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli. You don't think the British would have left the port faciiities in Alexandria and Port Said intact, do you?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Without the Suez Canal, the Allies could not maintain a presence in North Africa.
Without the Suez Canal the Allies would not be able to maintin a presence in Northeast Africa - except on the East side of the Canal, of course. The canal makes a very nice anti-tank ditch. Of course, the Allies at that time had no presence in Northwest Africa. How do you propose that the Axis would have prevented the Allies from landing in Northwest Africa sometime in 1942? Please don't tell me that without the Suez Canal the Allies couldn't have landed in French Northwest Africa.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
At that point, with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria already supporting the Axis, Yugoslavia and Greece would have come to terms without the Axis firing a shot (as there was no longer any chance of support from the Allies - as it was, it was a close call that the Allies were going to actually help defend Greece; that they did so under the actual circumstances was probably a mistake).
Your timing is off again. The Germans started sending trops - an ad hoc blocking force made up mostly of elements of 3rd Armoured Divisions - to Africa on an emergency basis in January 1941. They sent what they could spare.

Hitler had already committed the German Army to Greece at the beginning of November 1940, for much the same reason as he eventually intervened in Africa: the Italians had bitten off more than they could chew and were being pushed back by their opponent. The plan to invade Greece was coordinated with a plan to remove any British bases from the European coast of the Mediterranean. It thus included operation Felix - the conquest of Gibralter. The plan originally caled for the invasion of Gibralter and Greece to take place in January 1941. Franco's refusal to go along, resulted in the cancellation of Felix, thouigh planning for an operation agaisnt Gibralter thtrough Spain in tyhe face of oppostion was prepared, for execution after a successful invasion of Russia.

When Italy invaded Greece without telling Germany, and immediately ran into trouble, Hitler was furious. He reassigned to operation Felix the forces that had been designated for supporting Italy in Africa.

The commitment to Greece was made after the Italian advance into Egypt but before O'Conner's decisive counter-offensive, and before the assessment was made that gave rise to a requirement for four armoured divisions that you keep talking about. Even though the commitment was made in early November, the operation iteself wasn't intended to take place until 1941. This is because the armoured divisions would not be ready for service. Operation Marita was orignally planned for January., The germans weren't ready to go ahead until April.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Also, from Egypt, the Axis could overrun the eastern Mediterranean up to the Turkish border as well as the Arabian peninsula, Syria Iraq and Iran. The fact of the matter is that these areas did not have much of a military presence (indeed, they were held in place by outside forces - in this case those from Great Britain)
The fact of the matter is that the Allies had much more military force in these areas than they had in the Western Desert. If any serious threat to the Canal developed, a significant portion of these forces could be redeployed to Egypt, along with forces in East Africa and India.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and politically, they leaned either way. If the Axis took over from Great Britain, these areas would fall right into place. What is important here is not only did these areas provide oil, but they would allow the Axis to isolate Turkey and move its troops within striking distance of the Caucasus and Caspian Sea. Being in a pinch, Turkey would (at the very least) be forced to provide the Axis transit rights thus securing them a land route directly to the middle east.
Turkey would be in no such pinch untl the Royal Navy was removed from the Med and the British Army was removed from Iraq.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
At this point, the Axis has Russia threatened from both the West and South.
We've already seen that there could be no credible threat by German forces to the Caucasus without expending significant forces to conquer Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and part of Persia, and then deploying still more forces to garrison the conquered territory and protect the "theat's" right flank from British forces in India. This would take many times the four divisions you talk about. The Russians would have welcomed the force ratio changes that would have resulted on the main front, and would easily have blocked an attempted advance through the Caucasus.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Far from providing logistical problems, the result of this plan actually solved a number of logistical problems
OK, please explain how the German army would get supplies to the southern Caucasus.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and would have allowed the Axis to concentrate its forces for defense at vital points and free up more resources for the attack on Russia.
Please explain how garrisoning Spain, Portugal, French Northwest Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and part of Persia, or even just the last five of those, would free up more forces than limiting the commitment to Africa to just two armoured (and eventually two light infanctry) divisions. Furthermore, even without considering the occupation forces, the effect of putting a threat force into the Caucasus is to disperese, not concentrate, German forces.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I believe there is nothing to support this notion. Indeed, Stalin, despite being provided hundreds of reports of Axis build up at his borders and (accurate) reports of when and where Barbarossa would begin, did nothing of substance to prevent it. Given that he purposely buried his head in the sand regarding direct threats to Russia, there is nothing to support the notion that he would do anything to support Persia.
A series of espionage reports is not the same thing as the enemy actually invading a neighboring country.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This scenario was only "fantasy" in the sense it did not happen.
The scenario is fantasy in the sense that it would not ever happen. Germany did not believe that it could wait two more years to attack Russia. German planners would never conclude that the value of a threat of attack through the Caucasus would be worth the force reduction on the main front necessary to deliver the threat. German planners seriously considered the possibilities of capturing Malta and Gibralter and decided that it would be impossible to do either without delaying the attack on Russia by one year.
Taking Gibralter would require invading an ally - Spain. Negotiations to allow German forces to transit Spain in order to attack Gibralter were tried, and they failed. Employing four German armoured divisions in North Africa would have required removing nearly all Italian forces from North Africa - to which Italy would not agree. Forcing either of these approaches on allies was not palatable.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Indeed, the opportunity was appreciated by many, it was analyzed, it was proposed under the circumstances as they existed at the time. Many thought it was the best avenue for victory, however it was not not chosen by Hitler - hence it being one of his biggest mistakes of the war.
Please provide documentary evidence that there was any signifcant support for such a plan after it had been analysed. Indeed, many thought the idea of gaining complete control of the Mediterranean worth looking at. There were actual deployments of miniscule forces to support anti-British forces in Iraq and Palestine. Few continued to support plans such as you outline once the analysis had been complete and the Allies had taken complete control of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Those that did were generally opposed to Germany's man war aim - the conquest of Russia.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This forum is a poor place to really lay out the entire argument. I recommend "How Hitler Could Have Won World War II" by Bevin Alexander for a full treatment of Hitler's crucial mistakes - including the failure to take the Suez Canal.
If that is an appeal to authority, it fails miserably. Bevin Alexander is not to be taken seriously. The respect he commands among serious historians is reflected in the fact that the highest academic post he ever held was an adjunct professorship at a small regional university not known for the quality of its history department. He is also the author of a book that purports to explain how the South could have won the Civil war - an equally preposterous claim. It is no wonder that the Washignton Post refers to what he does as engaging in parlour games.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Those difficulties were tied directly to the fact that Hitler only approved a half-assed approach to begin with. Even with what he had, Rommel almost took Egypt. He asked for 4 divisions (and to lead the attack from the beginning). Instead, he was given 1 armored and 1 light division - and he did not take over the operation until Graziani utterly failed.
You say this as if Rommel had been advocating for a major German offensive against British Mediterranean interests for some time before he was appointed to command Deuteches Afrika Korps (DAK) in February 1941. AFAICT, Rommel had no inkling that he would be involved in any African operation until he was unexpectedly summoned by Hitler from leave on Feb. 6, and given command of what would become DAK.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Notice that we are only talking about 4 divisions (not 15 - thus not 10x) and these divisions would have been deployed at once,
We have already pointed out there there were not four divisions available, so they could not have been deployed "all at once". The best that could have been done is assign divisons returning from the Balkan campaign (as may have been intended with 2nd Armoured Divison, or deploy some of the ten new amoured divisions when their refit and training was complete, as actually hpeened with 15th Amoured division, or to redirect forces preparing for operation Felix, as happened with the elements of 3rd Armoured that composed the bulk of the newly formed 5th Light Division.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and at a time the Allies only had one division in North Africa.
That is quite incorrect. At the time the German assessment of a requirement for 4 armoured divisions was made in November 1940, the British had 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Divisions (supported by 7th Royal Tank Regiment) in the front line, and 6th Australian Division and 2nd New Zealand Divison (less two brigades) in reserve. The Germans certainly knew about both front-line divisions, and were probably aware of the presence of reserve forces. In addition to these forces there were numerous smaller forces scattered around Egypt, and the equivalent of at least six more divisions under C-in-C Middle East. Both the front-line divisions were experienced and well-trained in desert warfare. No German formations had any desert training.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This situation was no secret - building up the Egypt defenses was a crucial requirement in Churchill's eyes.
This is probably a good point to examine the origin of the 4 division requirement in more detail. It did not originate with Rommel. Hitler had considered the possibility of German offensives against British Mediterrnean interests as early as late July 1940, as an alternative to an invasion of Great Britain. 3rd Armoured Division was ordered to prepare for operation in support of Italian Forces in Libya, and plans were begun to capture Gibralter and suport indigenous opposition to British forces in Iraq and Palestine. In September and again in October, the Germans offered Italy the use of two armoured divisions for use against Egypt. Mussolini refused to allow German troops into Africa until such time as a final push on Alexandria and Cairo could be commenced, in late 1941 or early 1942. Germany attempted to negotiate Spanish entry into the war for a joint attack on Gibralter, or failing that, Spanish permission for German forces to traverse Spain to attack Gibralter. Spain refused.

In November of 1940, Hitler sent Generalmajor Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, General of Mobile Troops in the Army High Command, to observe the situation after Marshal Graziani's advance into Egypt had come to a self-imposed halt after a 100km advance with no serious opposition. It was von Thoma's appreciation that 4 armoured divisions would be required to defeat the British Western Desert Force. It is important to note other conclusions that accompanied this figure. First, the number four was reached because it would be impossible to supply more than four divisions, due to the limited transportation capacity in Cyrenaica, the length and condition of the land transportation route, and the problem of British interdiction of sea supply routes across the Mediterranean. Second, for this reason of limited supply, all Italian troops would have to be withdrawn from the front. This was, of course, politically impossible. Libya was Italian territory. Finally, the four divisions were the minimum number needed to defeat the four divisions the British were known to have in the immedate area. Any significant increase in British forces would render it impossible to provide supplies to a force large enough to defeat the British. Von Thoma's supply calculations were repeatedly proven correct at the culmination of each of Rommel's offensives into Egypt.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Once the Suez Canal is taken, North Africa falls to the Axis - Gibralter is a non factor.
Once North Africa falls to the Axis, the canal can be taken. Gibralter remains a factor affecting movement beyond the canal, because until Gibralter is taken, the Royal Navy can continue to interdict Axis trans-Med supply operations.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Furthermore, an attack on Malta would not go through Gibralter.
Any seaborne attack on Malta would be opposed by British naval forces based on Gibralter.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
With North Africa secured, the Mediterranean becomes an Axis Lake - that does not have to be entered from the Atlantic.
The Med doesn't become an Axis Lake until the Royal Navy are booted out of Palestine, Crete and Gibralter, as well as Egypt.



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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Also, because the Axis could extend their submarine ports to the Atlantic in France and also Africa, it would have been too costly for the Allies maintain Gibralter as it could not really be re supplied (and it would serve little purpose, anyway).
Exactly how do you think the Axis could supply submarine bases in Africa? Gibralter would continue to serve multiple purposes:
  • Base supporting operations in the Med,
  • Base suppoting convoys going around Africa
  • Base supporting operations in the Mid-Atlantic.
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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Nothing is "handwaved" away. The Allies supply lines for materiel and other supplies (excluding fuel) was the longest in history, yet they were able to be supplied. The only advantage the Allies had on the supply side was for fuel as it they had a route from the middle east and persia.
Um, no.


He's right. You are completely handwaving away the logistics problems faced by the Axis. Your comments indicate you don't understand the logisitics issues. You emphasize only the length of the total supply path. Length on its own has four impacts:
  • it affects the time that passes between shipment and delivery,
  • it affects the fuel used to transport the supplies
  • it affects the number of carriers required to maintain a given rate of supply, and
  • it can affect the vulnerability of the supplies to destruction by attack on the transport.
Despite what you might think, the first of these was not a real problem for either side. The British kept up a steady supply of food, ammunition and POL (Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants). Heavy equipment (tank, aircraft, artillery, trucks) availability was more a problem of production than of transportation.

Fuel for sea transportation was never really a problem for the British, despite the long sea route. Conversely it was a major problem for the Italian Navy, who had to limit their naval activity because of shortages of fuel supply for their warships. An even bigger problem for the Axis was POL for land surface transport. When the front was in Egypt, they had a much longer surface supply route and lower capacity roads in poorer condition. After O'Conner's offensive, the Axis had fewer trucks available to provide transport. The Axis supply difficulties were exacerbated by the Italian Army's rations system, which relied on a much larger amount of water per person for cooking. Water was scarce and expensive to transport.

In addition to better roads and more supply vehciles, the Allies had a rail line out to Mersa Matruh. A railway is a much more energy-efficient method of transport, and uses a different sort of fuel than what is needed by the military forces. These factors resulted in the Axis having a much higher fuel cost per ton of cargo delivered at the front. The Axis used a large majority of their POL simply in the delivery of supplies. There was little left over to support the manouvering of a multi-division mobile force.

What this adds up to is that in any given period of time the Allies could supply several times as much materiel to the front as the Axis.

While the Axis needed far fewer ships to keep their supply chain running, they actually had more of a shortage in cargo ships in the Med than the Allies had in their around-Africa runs. They also had less shipbuilding capacity to replace losses suffered.

The convoy route from Britain to Suez was subject to far fewer losses to enemy action than was the convoy route from Italy to Tripoli. From January to June 1941, the Germans lost fully 1/3 of the armoured vehicles they tranported by sea in the Med. That's was enough tanks to fully equip an armoured divison (in fact it was all the tanks of 2nd Armoured Division, rendering that formation useless to send to Africa, as well as that division's reconnaisance vehicles.) 15th Armoured Division's Reconnaisance batallion was also lost at sea. British losses on convoys to Suez due to u-boat and air attack were a much smaller portion of the total shipped.

Any supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The Axis supply chain had two links that were weaker than any link in the supply chain to the British forces at the front in the Western Desert - the safety of the sea routes and the capacity of the land routes.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
For some reason, you keep ignoring that the initial plan supported by Rommel called for 4 divisions.
He may but I don't. What you keep ignoring is the origin and significance of that number. It was impossible for the Axis to keep more than four armoured divisions in supply in Egypt. (The closer the forces were to Tripoli, the more could be supplied). Four divisions was not a guarantee of victory no matter the size of the Britsh forces. It was what was required to defeat what the Britsh had in place in November of 1940. Once the 8th Army constituted two corps, four divisions would have been insufficent, but more than four couldn't be kept in supply.

You also ignore the fact that at the time Rommel arrived in Africa, the Germans didn't have four armoured divisions available for service . Almost all operational divisions had already been allocated to other duties. Once Barbarosa began, no more armoured divisions would be available.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
At the campaign's peak, the Germans had 4.5 divisions - the fundamental problem is that such were committed ad hoc. Had Rommel been supplied with these units (which were available and not being used at the time)
No they were not. Please show which German armoured divsions were operational but unengaged in February 1941. I can only find 7th Armoured.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
all the beginning of the campaign, he could have met his objective of capturing the Suez Canal which was the gateway to the middle east and persia.
The general in charge of mobile troops, who had been with panzertruppen ever since they were formed, and who was qualified to make basic logistics assessments, and who personally inspected the logistics net available, said that it would be impossible to keep four armoured divisions supplied if the Italian forces were also to be suppplied. His calculations were repeatedly shown to be essentially correct by actual supply situations in the desert over the next 12 months. The logistics problems of the desert war are a favourite topic in staff colleges in several of the worlds' major armies. They come to the same conclusion. Why should I believe you rather than them?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
From there is would not have been too difficult to secure an oil supply.
Of course, it would be a piece of cake for the Germans to supply operations in the Tigris and Euphrates valley with trucks driven from Tripoli Benghazi and Tobruk down the coast road to Palestine and then across desert tracks. In the unlikely event that German forces ever came near Iraq or Arabia, do you really think the British would leave the refineries intact?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
As for everything else, the Axis supply line was much shorter.
The sea route was much shorter but the Axis sea route was much more dangerous, resulting in a much higher loss rate. This danger could not be alleviated until Malta, and Gibralter fell. The land route in Egypt was much longer for the Germans than for the British, and was of much lower capacity, and had a much higher fuel cost per ton-mile.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I disagree. As I stated earlier, Gibralter did not have to be taken directly. If the Axis holds North Africa, they could have an Atlantic base for u-boats to interdict supply routes to Gibralter (to add to those on the French coast).
The Germans never seriously considered a major u-boat base in Africa, in part because keeping it supplied and secure would have been prohibitively costly.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
The Allies did not have unlimited resources (at least prior to the U.S. entering the war) - thus they would have to consider the purpose of Malta (and Gibralter for that matter) in light of North Africa being in the Axis' hands. I think it is reasonable to consider the primary purpose of Malta is to prevent North Africa and the Suez Canal from falling. Once that happens, what purpose would it serve?
Suez can't fall until Malta falls. Malta is one of the two reasons that Germany cannot supply a large enough force to take the Canal. I've already listed some of the purposes of Gibralter.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
In any event, if one needs to entertain that Malta had to be invaded, you must recall that Hitler sent a significant number of troops (including all of his paratroopers) to capture Crete. This was a target of minimal value as it was only relevant as a piece of the Allies scheme to protect North Africa - but for the Axis, it would essentially be of no use. However, Crete did not have to be attacked directly - it would be rendered irrelevant if Egypt was taken.
If Egypt is taken but Crete remains in British hands, the Eastern Squadrons of the Royal Navy's Mediterranenean Fleet would operate out of Crete (as long as fuel supplies allowed) , denying the Germans use of Egyptian ports, and harrassing traffic on the coast road. Greece had also given Britain permission to survey Cree and parts of souten Greece for teh purpose of constuction of airfields. Germany was concenred that these airfields would be used to bomb the Romainian oildifields which were teh source of nearly all of Germany's oil supply. Even if Germany had deployed 4 armoured divisions in North Africa, they would not have been able to guarantee that the British wpuld ot be able to get airfieds up and runnig before the canal fell.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
In any event, the point is that instead of attacking Malta, Hitler invaded Crete.
Ever wonder why? Think it could be because Malta was a much tougher nut to crack? Or was it that protecting their strategic oil supply was more important than than protecting supply routes to a sideshow.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
The Allied bases at Gibralter, Malta and Alexandria (and to a lesser extent, Crete) prevented the Mediterranean from being an Axis Lake. However, these defenses had to each be in place for the others to be effective (and relevant).
Don't forget Haifa. Frankly, none was entirely dependent on any of the others, except that a loss of both Alexandria and Gibralter would eventually prove fatal to the rest. However, Alexandria was safe as long as Malta remained operational.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I appreciate your point about the chess moves, but it seems that you believe all chess moves are equal. I am not well versed in chess, but one can see that certain moves will set in place a sequence of moves where the other player is forced to react in certain ways or capitulate. Of course, the only way to break this chain (once set in motion) is to provide a brilliant counter. I don't believe the Allies had the resources at the time to do more than react to what the Axis was doing,
While the Allies were primarily in reactive mode, they had a major advantage in intelligence to let them react appropriately. If the British knew that Rommel was to receive 4 armoured divisons, they would not have ended 'Cooner's offensive, dispersed 7th Armoured, nor directed three divisions to Greece. Rather they would have continued O'Conner's offensive before the German forces could be unloaded and made operational. The Allies knew what forces Rommel was getting and when he was getting them - they just miscalulated how soon he would act. If they thought he was getting significantly more forces, they never would have let him get started.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
...
You keep mentioning that Russia wouldn't allow this and that. However, once again, Stalin was trying to keep Russia out of a war with Hitler. Indeed, Stalin was provided reports time and again that the Axis was building up for an attack against Russia; he was told when and where the attacks would take place - and he did nothing.
Sort of like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. When Stalin saw an actual military move he would have acted. But the necessary actions might have been no more than putting an infantry corps into the Caucasus. As long as he wasn't actually at war with Germany, he may have been content to let German and British forces fight over Iraq and Persia. That is not a given, however. Long-standing Russian policy considered Persia to be within the Russian sphere of influence.

However, it is erroneous to say that Stalin was trying to keep Russia out of a war with Germany. Rather he wnted that war to be fought when he was ready, and he was building up faster than the Germans. Russia considered such a war inevitable. So did Germany. One of the reasons that the initial German attacks on Russia were so successful is that the Russian forces were deployed as if preparing for an offensive, not deployed on the defensive.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
As far as where troops would be and how they would be protected, you ignore the fact that certain acts change the state of the war. "Fortress Europa" would have been realized and it could have been defended with minimal troop commitment (again, we are not talking about kicking off Barbarossa at the same time or under the same conditions as it actually was) It is true that as the Axis gained more territory, there was more to defend. However, most of the areas to defend would be consolidated allowing more resources to be deployed where needed.
Please explain which divisons would be freed up, and which divisions would be allocated to occupation duties if the Germans occupied more territory before attacking Russia.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Your last point about these "long, long supply lines" just does not take into account any of the conditions that would change as this scenario unfolds. The Axis standing on a new frontier opposing the Caucauses would get its oil from the middle east.
How long does it take to rebuild a refinery?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
(Where did the Allies get their oil?)
Mostly from America, and the Caribbean. At that time, so did most of the rest of the world except Russia and Asia (one of the main reasons Spain would not join the war).

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
They would be supplied either overland (through Turkey)
Not feasible in the capacity or time scale required.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
or through ports in the middle east, and Persia
Using what tankers? Protected from the Royal Navy how?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
(how were the Allies being supplied?)
Mostly by tankers from Texas, Mexico, Aruba and Curacao.

After taly entered the war, Middle East oil went to Australia, India and Egypt. Export to Britain was discontinued. Middle East oil production actually declined during the war.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Finally, you seem to assume that I am arguing something more than "Hilter made a mistake due to the fact there were better options available."
He may be, but I am arguing that the options you propose would not be better. A Caucasus front would have delayed the attack on Russia by two years and weakened the attacking German forces much more than the defending Russian forces. The Germans would not have been able to make profitable use of Middle-east oil for years. Securing the Mediterranean but not going after Iraq or the Caucasus would have delayed the attack on Russia by one year. We have no way of knowing if this would have ensured the success of the German attack on Russia, or led to a preemptive attack by Russia.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I am not guaranteeing that he would have won the war, I am simply pointing out that the choices he made were mistakes because they decreased his chance of meeting his objectives in light of better options. In this case, had Hilter taken the Suez Canal, he would have provided the Axis with far more options and possibilities for winning the war.
I think you are dreaming in technicolor. What you are propsign are not better choices. Taking the Suez Canal delays the attack on Russia by a year, reduces forces available for that attack, and gains Germany nothing that will help the attack on Russia. Since the conquest of Russia is the number one war aim of Germany, none of this would be allowed to happen. (It is great for the Italians though. Now they can fight the British for control of the Sudan.) It might delay an Allied attack on Italy or Southern France by a few months, or it may divert their landings to Iberia.
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Old 01-02-2013, 12:53 PM   #61
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Cite?
I gave you the cite already.
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:45 PM   #62
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Cite?

Either the Suez Canal or the Staits of Gibralter provided an entree into the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to control the Med, you need both, (ignoring the nearly non-existant threat posed by Russia through the Bosporous/Dardanelles), or complete air superiority from land bases in the middle and at each end. In 1940-1942 neither side had control of the Med, though after Taranto, the Royal Navy certainly had naval supremacy.

The loss of Egypt and the Canal would probably have led to the eventual removal of British Naval presence in the Eastern Med, but not the Western Med or Malta. However, the loss of Egypt was unlikely without the prior loss of Malta.
I don't agree with this. If the Allies want to control the Mediterranean, they would need both; the Axis would only need the Suez Canal. As it was, even with the base in Alexandria, the Axis had the upper hand in the Eastern Med.

Without the Suez Canal, Malta and Gibralter would not have had much importance relative to the cost of maintaining the bases. If The Axis had the Suez Canal, why do they need access through Gibralter? They certainly would not have needed to send anything in or out through that route. As things were, Malta (without an invasion) was hanging on for dear life, at one point, the Allies attempted to resupply it from Alexandria and Gibralter and only 2 of 19 ships made it through.


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What are these "opportunities"? The denial of British supply transport through the Med was already accomplished. So the only potentially significant opportunities presented to the Axis by posession of the Suez Canal were the tying of Italy's North African conquests with its East African conquests, or the use of Egypt as a German springboard to Iraq, Persia and the southern flank of the Soviet Union. You are suggesting that this latter opportunity was real and potentially strategically decisive. I am suggesting that the opportunity was illusory and if it had been pursued, it would have been strategically negative for Germany.
To point 1. You also need to add that keeping the Suez Canal for the Allies provides them the (eventual) opportunity to shorten its resupply lines - which became a reality once Sicily was invaded.

To point 2. Yes, that is my argument. However, it is not MY argument. Most of the top German generals argued for this; Churchill was quite aware of this. If you are going to suggest that the opportunity was illusory, then I suppose you should explain why.


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When? Is it intended that the threat develop before any actual attack on Russia? If so, what you are really saying is that Hitler made a mistake by attacking Russa in 1941 instead of 1943. (I'll address this timing issue, below.)
That is exactly what I am saying. I have always maintained that as things stood, it was a big mistake for Hitler to attack Russia prior to removing Great Britain as a threat. Attacking the Suez Canal was one such way to remove this threat prior to attacking Russia. I appreciate your arguments, but it seems you are more interested in just attacking me than reading what I have said. I clearly stated that these steps would require delaying any attack on Russia, yet you jump forward as if I have ignored this.

The thread is about "Hitler's mistakes." It is obvious that Hitler made mistakes, even if there was never a real possibility that he could win the war. So, if the standard here is "Well, if you want to point out a mistake, then you have to provide a complete scenario which would have allowed Hitler to win the war," then this thread should not exist.

Indeed, if we want to cut to the chase, I suppose starting the war was the mistake to begin with and the thread should just end. Indeed, Hitler was not seeking war in 1939 with anyone beyond Poland. He had already locked Russia into a neutrality pact; he really believed Britain was his "natural ally" and that France would just stay idle. Furthermore, his navy was undergoing a complete overhaul and building up that was not planned to be completed until 1943 - he was not ready for such a large scale war, yet that is what happened. So, contrary to what he expected, he stumbled into a world war. That is his mistake because even if he stopped after invading Poland, it seems he would have eventually had to face a war barring some political resolution over him invading Poland.

However, since that is not what the thread is about, we are discussing that there are a number of things that should have been done which would have potentially provided a better plan for Germany. Of course, we can look back with perfect hindsghit and say, well, Hitler should have done "x" because we know "y" and thus "z" would have happened. That is not what I am trying to do; I am trying to look at these mistakes based on what information was known to the Axis and whether such things were even considered. In this case, taking the Suez Canal was certainly proposed to Hitler based on conditions and information as it actually existed.

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Where is this threat to be developed? I presume that you mean through Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Through Turkmenistan and Uzbeckistan would dissipate the effort whlie greatly increasing the supply and coordination problems. I also presume you are not suggesting that Germany violate Turkish neutrality - doing so would put at risk Axis control of the Med.
You don't need to presume that I am advocating that Germany violate Turkish neutrality when I state they would get an agreement for transitory rights. Indeed, given that Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania are already within the Axis control, and the scenario has the Axis at Turkey's sourthern border as well, it seems that Turkey would be in a pinch. I think they would agree to provide these transit rights over the threat of being invaded.

Again, Germany would already have an oil suppy from Persia and the middle east prior to focing Turkey to give them transitory rights. After getting these rights, the supply problem is essentially avoided.

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So, have you considered what sort of forces it would take for a German army to force passage through the Caucasus? The terrain is totally unsuitable for mobile warfare. How were these forces to be supplied? Don't you realize it would be trivial for the Russians to put a blocking force in the way and keep it well-supplied? A flank attack is only a credible threat if the forces that would make it can get to the flank while the flank is unprotected, or can overcome any flank protection the defenders put in place. The nature of the terrain and the communications routes of the respective sides render laughable a threat of a German flank attack on the USSR through the Caucasus .
It very well may be the case that the terrain is unsuitable for mobile warfare; for that same reason France did not expect an attack through the Ardenne Forest (and why the Maginot Line ended at that point). If it is impossible, then it is impossible. However, from what I have read, the argument with Hitler never got to this point - he rejected the plan before getting into its individual aspects.

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If there was a credible German strategic objective beyond Suez, it would be taking control of the Middle East oilfields, or at least denying their use to the British. Given that only a fraction of the oil imported by Britain during the war came from the Mddle East, control would have been far more important to the Axis than inderdiction. However, it would be unlikely that the Gerrmans would be able to maintain such control as long as the Russians remained undefeated. It would be a lot easier for the Russians to mount an invasion of Persia through the Caucasus, than it would be for the Germans to attack in the opposite direction. And British forces in India would almost certainly have been enough to prevent the Germans from gaining control of working oilfields in Iraq/Kuwait. Then there is the small problem of getting the oil from Iraq or Arabia to Germany. It would have been impossible for Germany or Italy to keep the Royal Navy away form the entrance to the Red Sea, even if the German army took the naval base at Aden.
Why? If on one side, one can simply put up a token defensive barrier, why couldn't the Germans do the same to Russia? Also, the Russians were not active in the war at that point (outside of their invasion of Finland). Indeed, Russia sat by while Germany moved on the Balkan states and Poland and built up their forces on the border (for the eventual invasion), now we have Russia suddenly jumping into the action whenever some other threat comes about? Stalin was looking to avoid war with Germany at all costs, I don't find these pre-emptory moves you assumed to have any basis in fact.

Furthermore, India was being threatened from the East as Japan had designs on invading it. British forces in India were not sitting idly by - they were already engaged.

That it would be impossible to get the oil to Germany is not really a problem. Germany was already well supplied from Romania - the oil would be used in other areas of need. Indeed, are you arguing that Germany only needed oil that was to be used in Germany?

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How? Britain's ability to fight against the Germans was in no way predicated on retaining a Mediterranean or African presence. Turning the Mediterranean into an Axis Lake merely reduces British threats to Italian Mediterranean interests. It probably makes no difference regarding loss of Italian East Africa, and unless Gibralter is also taken, the capture of Suez doesn't innoculate the Axis powers from an invasion of France or Italy from bases in Algeria or Tunisia. Remember that the Torch landings in no way depended on British naval presence in the Eastern Med. Even the loss of Gibralter would not have prevented landings on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco.
This is confusing: You are saying that Britain's ability to fight Germany does not require a presence in North Africa or the Med, but then you state it could still attack France or Italy from bases in the Mediterranean or North Africa.

Torch occured long after this scenario was to jump off. Without the Americans, just what was to be landed in Morocco (and how would whatever forces make much of a difference when Torch also benefitted from the Allies already on the retreat and facing superior numbers coming from Egypt).

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The whole point of WWII, from the Geman point of view, was a decisive victory over Russia. If that could be achieved, continental Europe would be safe. Peripheral matters such as control of the Med could be left for later.
Which is the point of my argument which states that given Russia is the goal, the Axis made a mistake of attacking it when they did when they could have built leverage by taking other preliminary steps.

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Yes, but most of these were disembarked at Suez, not sent through the Canal.
Correct. I am not sure why this matters. Are you suggesting that if North Africa fell into the Axis' hands that the Allies would seek a large-scale invasion of Egypt through Suez?

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I think you have that backwards. It would be necessary to have control of North Africa in order to take the Suez Canal.
I don't see this. The Allies sure didn't have control of North Africa, yet they had the Suez Canal. Even though it was difficult to supply with materiel, troops and supplies, the oil supply route was much shorter and abundant.

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?!? Malta was supplied by convoys that came through Gibralter. Losing Egypt does little to prevent thr Allies from supplying Malta via Gibralter.
Malta barely hung on and that was without an invasion attempted. Had the Germans attacked Malta instead of Crete, it would have likely fallen. As it was, Malta per square foot, was the most heavily bombed area on earth and its supplies were dwindling. The Allies had to undertake an emergency operation to resupply it from Alexandria and Gibralter and nearly 85% of the ships were sunk. Indeed, Malta did hang on, but supplying it required extensive and costly measures.

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That's a rather sloppy claim. In September 1939, Gemany had 5 operational armoured divisions and 4 Light Divisions. Over the winter of 39-40, the Light Divisons were converted to Armoured Divisions and a tenth Armoured division was activiated. When France was defeated in June 1940, Germany had ten battle-damaged armoured divisions, in need of reinforcement, replenishment and rest. Between August and October, Germany formed 10 new armoured divisisons, by the expedient of removing half the tank regiments from the existing armoured divisions and combining them with the staffs and fighting regiments of infantry divisions and designating these new formations as armoured divisions. None of these ten newly-formed divisions, and few of the original ten were in any way ready for operations until the spring of 1941.

As it was, when the Italians made preparations for offensive operations in North Africa, Germany offered to send two armoured divisons in support - one immediately and one to follow. 3rd Armoured division was ordered to prepare for deployment to Libya, and it seems likely that 2nd Armored Division was to be made available for Africa after it was withdrawn from the Balkan Campaign. Hitler repeated the offer of two armoured divisions when he met with Mussolini in early October, but the offer was refused. Mussolini would only be interested in support for the planned third phase of the offensive - to take Alexandria and Cairo - many months in the future.

In February 1941, after O'Conner's offensvie had kicked the Italians out of Egypt and Cyrenaica, and reduced Italian forces in North Africa to a tiny fraction of their former levels, Mussolini was finally prepared to accept German forces in Libya. I think I know what 17 of the 20 German armoured divisions were doing in February. Only one of these, 7th Armoured Division, was in a state that could conceivably be considered "idle"- it formed the Army's strategic mobile reserve. About half of the divisions were preparing for operations in Yugoslavia and Greece. Most of the rest were guarding the eastern front against the largest army in the world.
I suppose the armoured divisions used for Barborossa just materiliazed overnight?

Hitler did not offer two divisions,he offered one armoured division and one light division. At this time, there was no "Balkan campaign" - that was forced on the Germans after Italy invaded Greece - which happened after Rommel was already in Africa (Italy invaded Greece in November 1940; Germany invaded the Balkans and Greece in April 1941).

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The objective was Russia. The Russians had more and better tanks than the Germans did. The Germans needed every armoured division they could spare. Reducing their armoured forces by 20% while going ahead with the invasion was just not on.
Again, are you just going to ignore that I have stated the attack on Russia was premature? Russia was not going to attack Germany, it was always going to be the other way around. So, Germany had more than enough resources available to achieve these objectives as stated.

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What did Germany need French North Africa for? The more territory you take, the more forces you need for occupation duties.
Which is it now? Do you still need North Africa to control the Suez Canal, or is it something else? Why did anyone need North Africa? In any event, why do you think more troops would be required for occupation duties as opposed to those duties keeping the Vichy French (with a Navy and fully equipped army) under control? Its not like Germany allowed its puppet states to crop up and act independently - they kept a sizable military presence in those areas.


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It's good to know the timelines you have in mind. You're talking about decisions made in 1941. OK. In 1941 the only decisions that could have been made to allow your fanatasy to unfold would be to postpone Barbarossa for a year or two. The Germans were unwilling to do this. They believed that a Russian attack was inevitable, and might come as early as winter 41-42. Furthemore, the Russians, who already had a significant lead in tanks and aircraft, many of which were better than the German models, were outproducing Germany. Any delay would give Russia an even greater materiel advantage.
I don't know how long this would postpone Barbarossa, but there was no concern of a pre-emptory invasion by Russia. Indeed, outside of Hitler's lackeys, the German military leaders were very suprised when learning Hitler's plans. Furthermore, Russia's aircraft were not up to snuff with Germany's, its tanks were better. However, Hitler firmly believed that Russia was a paper lion and that any such deficiencies would be overcome by tactics, leadership, and fighting spirit. For the most part, he was right about this (of course, due to a number of errors, Germany did not properly exploit its advantages and overtime, Russia got competent leadership on line and Russia developed [or perhaps found] it fighting spirit).

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Capturing the Suez canal alone would not inevitably lead to securing all of North Africa. Deploying the forces necessary for the Axis to secure North Africa and the entire Mediterranean, (which would have required the invasion of Spain and the capture of Malta), would delay the invasion of Russia until spring of 1942 (assuming all went well in the expanded Mediterranenan campaign) or later, and reduce the forces available for the invasion while Russian forces were growing. Having a force in place to threaten the Caucasus from the south would require yet another year.
Agree to disagree. Spain did not need to be involved at all as Gibralter would have been useless at that point. I also believe Malta would have died on the vine. However, towards a more sure result, Hitler should have invaded Malta instead of Crete.

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IOW your scencaio contemplates delaying the invasion of Russia until at least 1942.
Yes. Given that Hitler probably made a mistake of allowing Barbarossa to jump off in June 1940 (once it was delayed by the Balkans/Greece campaign); I believe that under this scenario or any other that it was a mistake to invade Russia until spring 1942. To be sure, it would have been better to ignore the Balkans and Greece altogether if it would have allowed Barbarossa to launch on time - that would have been better than June. However, unless it is your position that the Balkans and Greece (as well as North Africa) was entirely irrelevant, that situation simply could not be ignored. Thus, under any conditions, Russia should not have been invaded until Spring 1942, anyway.

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We'll get to the four divisions and the force requirements a bit later.

He wasn't sent over to launch a campaign. He was sent over to prevent the Italians being bounced out of Libya entirely, after they lost nearly their whole North African army to a force 1/6 its size. They were sent ad hoc because the Italian collapse was so sudden and unexpected. The Germans scraped together whatever scraps they had available - because that is all that was available. There was no pool of 20 armoured divisions sitting around with nothing to do.
No. Hitler directly refused Rommel's plea to provide him 4 divisions right off the bat. Hitler was keeping these for the Barbarossa campaign. The mistake was that Hitler did not allow Rommel undertake this campaign himself with the proper resources. Hitler only agreed to go along with this to aid Italy - otherwise, he would not have committed anything to the effort. Rommel was arguing that he should lead the campaign - this was before Graziani got destroyed.

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How was he supposed to get proper resupply with Malta in British hands, and the Royal Navy secure in both Alexandria and Gibralter? The only way to properly supply the forces Rommel would need to take the Canal would be to first capture Malta, and then find a way to neutralize the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. Securing the Med would also require capturing Gibralter. Capturing Gibralter would require an invasion of Spain. The Germans developed a plan for that - Operation Felix. For very good reasons, Spain would not agree to enter the war under the terms the Germans suggested. Prioceedinh without Spanish agreement would It would require 2/3 of the armoured force they used to invade France. It would also probably require the invasion of Portugal and the deployment of at least two infantry corps and a couple armoured divisions as occupation forces. All those troops were needed for the Eastern Front. The Germans correctly concluded that the Mediterranean and other English interests could be dealt with after the Russians had been defeated.

Malta was not dependent on the Canal for resupply. Most of Malta's resupply came through Gibralter. Also, even with Malta gone, the Axis would still not have a direct supply route. They would still need to deal with the Royal Navy, who would be based in Gibralter and Haifa, (and if the forces used to take Crete were used instead to take Malta, the Royal Navy would operate out of Crete too.) They would still need to truck all their supplies down from Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli. You don't think the British would have left the port faciiities in Alexandria and Port Said intact, do you?

Without the Suez Canal the Allies would not be able to maintin a presence in Northeast Africa - except on the East side of the Canal, of course. The canal makes a very nice anti-tank ditch. Of course, the Allies at that time had no presence in Northwest Africa. How do you propose that the Axis would have prevented the Allies from landing in Northwest Africa sometime in 1942? Please don't tell me that without the Suez Canal the Allies couldn't have landed in French Northwest Africa.
Again, the argument was that Rommel and 4 divisions would have been able to accomplish the objective. This was Rommel's proposal and request. I am sure he was more aware of the resupply logistics than we are. In any event, given Hitler's unreasonable insistance on keeping all ground gained, he started putting more emphasis on supplying North Africa once Rommel made progress and then was in jeopardy of falling back. After all was said and done, Rommell almost completed his objective with an ad hoc force - one that all told totaled more than the 4 divisions he originally requested. The point is that, yes, resupply of oil was a big problem, but then again, if Rommel had the forces he needed from the beginning, he would have had a much easier time.

As things were, the main problem with resupply was more political than logistical. Rommel's requests usually ended in Rome with Kesselring not even forwarding them to Berlin. In any event, at no time have I ignored the presence of the Royal Navy and the problems they posed. However, you are basing their strengths on how things were with Hitler figting for North Africa without his heart being in it and his mind on Russia.


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Your timing is off again. The Germans started sending trops - an ad hoc blocking force made up mostly of elements of 3rd Armoured Divisions - to Africa on an emergency basis in January 1941. They sent what they could spare.
I don’t agree with this. France had capitulated in June 1940; Graziani was defeated in North Africa in 1940; Hitler had Barbarossa earmarked for May 1941; the Germans invaded the Balkans and Greece in April 1941. Rommel was sent in January 1941; Rommel wanted to go in with 4 divisions prior to November 1940 instead of Graziani.

Are you suggesting that Germany built up over 20 armored divisions between November and April? "What they could spare" was merely what Hitler wanted to commit - which was barely more than nothing. Again, he didn't want to be involved at all; he reluctantly sent Rommel once it was clear the Italians were going to be defeated.

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Hitler had already committed the German Army to Greece at the beginning of November 1940, for much the same reason as he eventually intervened in Africa: the Italians had bitten off more than they could chew and were being pushed back by their opponent.
No. The Italians invaded Greece at the end of October 1940 and it was a surprise to Hitler. Hitler did not invade the Balkans and Greece until April, 1941. It is true Hilter was planning the attack (and committed to doing so in November). Also, you are correct - Hitler's reason for going had more to do with Italy biting off more than she could chew than for any reasons personal to Germany. However, the Balkans were much more important to protecting Germany and the Romanian oilfields, thus an appropriate response was issued - unlike what was done in Africa since Hitler was not interested in it at all. Indeed, the Germans swept through the Balkans and Greece in force and ran almost a perfect campaign. They cer

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The plan to invade Greece was coordinated with a plan to remove any British bases from the European coast of the Mediterranean. It thus included operation Felix - the conquest of Gibralter. The plan originally caled for the invasion of Gibralter and Greece to take place in January 1941. Franco's refusal to go along, resulted in the cancellation of Felix, thouigh planning for an operation agaisnt Gibralter thtrough Spain in tyhe face of oppostion was prepared, for execution after a successful invasion of Russia.

When Italy invaded Greece without telling Germany, and immediately ran into trouble, Hitler was furious. He reassigned to operation Felix the forces that had been designated for supporting Italy in Africa.

The commitment to Greece was made after the Italian advance into Egypt but before O'Conner's decisive counter-offensive, and before the assessment was made that gave rise to a requirement for four armoured divisions that you keep talking about. Even though the commitment was made in early November, the operation iteself wasn't intended to take place until 1941. This is because the armoured divisions would not be ready for service. Operation Marita was orignally planned for January., The germans weren't ready to go ahead until April.
Rommel was on the ground in North Africa in February 1941. Recall, he wasn't going to be there, but for the Italian's failures. Inany event, just the presence of Rommel caused Wavell to propose complete withdrawal of Egypt (which was, of course, refused by Churchill). This was even before Rommel fired a single shot. Imagine the panic if Rommel landed earlier and with the divisions he requested for November 1940.

As you say, Marita was originally planned for January 1941. So, from November 1940 - January 1941, Hitler was able to ready forces sufficient to invade the Balkans, Greece, Crete, and Gibralter (granted Gibralter was called off), but you say on the other hand, Hitler would not have been able to raise the 4 divisions Rommel wanted ready for November 1940?

The simple reason why Rommel was not provided 4 divisions is because Hitler did not want Rommel to operate in North Africa to begin with. Once the Italians were destined to defeat, Hitler begrudgingly sent in Rommel with 1.5 divisions. Hitler simply sent what he believed to be enough for Rommel to complete the job, and nothing more. It was not because he could not raise these divisions.

In any event, Hitler was lucky that Franco did not go along with Felix as attacking Gibralter would have been a disaster. Hitler did not improve upon that plan by much when he decided to take Crete - indeed, those resources were wasted as they should have gone towards an attack on Malta.

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The fact of the matter is that the Allies had much more military force in these areas than they had in the Western Desert. If any serious threat to the Canal developed, a significant portion of these forces could be redeployed to Egypt, along with forces in East Africa and India.
Weird. forces protecting the Suez Canal were stripped to protect Greece. in any event, as you say, if there were far more resources in "these areas" (presumably you refer to the Balkans and Greece) it is quite amazing what a proper offensive against these forces could achieve. Indeed, the Germans completely steamrolled the Balkans and Greece in about a month with minimal losses. Imagine what could have happened if the same concerted effort was directed at North Africa. Of course, you say the Germans did not have the resources to carry out a proper North African campaign, yet here, they had enough to carry out a campaign in areas that had even more defenses.

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Turkey would be in no such pinch untl the Royal Navy was removed from the Med and the British Army was removed from Iraq.
Okay. I think you mean "Eastern Med." I submit that the taking of the Suez Canal would remove the Royal Navy from the Eastern Med. I also don't think removing the Britain from Persia would not have posed much of a problem (next section).

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We've already seen that there could be no credible threat by German forces to the Caucasus without expending significant forces to conquer Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and part of Persia, and then deploying still more forces to garrison the conquered territory and protect the "theat's" right flank from British forces in India. This would take many times the four divisions you talk about. The Russians would have welcomed the force ratio changes that would have resulted on the main front, and would easily have blocked an attempted advance through the Caucasus.
Here is an account of what was going down in these areas:

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The story was not entirely woeful for Britain throughout the Middle East in the spring and summer of 1941. Between April and August the British had acted decisively in three important areas - Iraq, Syria and Iran - to protect and guarantee her all-important oil supplies for what turned out tho be the rest of teh war. 'The campaigns werenot large,' writes their historian, 'they were conducted without much fanfare and each with laughably limited resoureces ... but they were crucial for Britain's survival.

Andrew Robert's "The Storm of War," p. 126
The point is that the British presence in the area was not significant (in terms of whether they could hold against German operations); the area was politically unsettled, if not leaning anti-Britain (an anti-British general was in power in Iraq in April 1941 - who had a deal with the Vichy controlled Syria for arms); the main factor in consolidating these regions for the Allies oil-supply was that Germany invaded Russia and Churchill declared Britain's alliance with Russia. This was a tipping point as these areas were more concerned with going against Russia than Germany. Even still, the Allieds had to invade Iran in August 1942 because the Iranian government refused to German agents from the country.

Here, you claim taking over these areas would be some feat just short of a miracle, but all the elements were already in place - especially since (with limited resources) the Allies did not move in these places until mid 1941. If Rommel kicks off in November 1940 as argued, this would have been a different story.

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OK, please explain how the German army would get supplies to the southern Caucasus.
I've already done this.

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Please explain how garrisoning Spain, Portugal, French Northwest Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and part of Persia, or even just the last five of those, would free up more forces than limiting the commitment to Africa to just two armoured (and eventually two light infanctry) divisions. Furthermore, even without considering the occupation forces, the effect of putting a threat force into the Caucasus is to disperese, not concentrate, German forces.
Spain and Portugal did not need any attention. Are you suggesting they would take up arms against Germany?

For the rest, you already ignore that Germany had resources on the ground in North Africa. Are you suggesting that once these areas are controlled that an mass invasion can just materialize at any point (temporal or geographically)? Why does it defy reasonable belief that the Germans would not be able to concentrate their defenses at key points - why would they just be spread willy-nilly around? Relative to resources needed for fighting the war, occupation forces did not need to be that substantial - indeed, the Allies themselves operated pretty freely in areas that were not quite politically favorable to them.

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A series of espionage reports is not the same thing as the enemy actually invading a neighboring country.
Perhaps, but the quality of the information was good. I think you will have a hard time finding a proper historical account that does not speak to Stalin taking a blind eye to the German's invading. Also, Poland was invaded and Romania, Bulgaria and other acquisitions brought Germany to Russia's door - that was tangible, not an espionage report and Stalin still sought to placate Germany. The only action that seems to have been taken in anticipatioin of a German invasion (other than maintaining a military presense on the borders) was Russia's invasion of Finland.

Again, there is nothing to suggest that Russia would leap into action and initiate hostilities with Germany - especially when the area of concern lies outside of Russia.

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The scenario is fantasy in the sense that it would not ever happen. Germany did not believe that it could wait two more years to attack Russia. German planners would never conclude that the value of a threat of attack through the Caucasus would be worth the force reduction on the main front necessary to deliver the threat. German planners seriously considered the possibilities of capturing Malta and Gibralter and decided that it would be impossible to do either without delaying the attack on Russia by one year.
Taking Gibralter would require invading an ally - Spain. Negotiations to allow German forces to transit Spain in order to attack Gibralter were tried, and they failed. Employing four German armoured divisions in North Africa would have required removing nearly all Italian forces from North Africa - to which Italy would not agree. Forcing either of these approaches on allies was not palatable.
I already went over this.

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Please provide documentary evidence that there was any signifcant support for such a plan after it had been analysed. Indeed, many thought the idea of gaining complete control of the Mediterranean worth looking at. There were actual deployments of miniscule forces to support anti-British forces in Iraq and Palestine. Few continued to support plans such as you outline once the analysis had been complete and the Allies had taken complete control of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Those that did were generally opposed to Germany's man war aim - the conquest of Russia.
Hitler never supported the plan. I will go find what you request. However, it seems you think those supporting this plan, brought it to Hitler prior to analyzing it. That seems a bit silly - as if these guys went directly to a bull**** session and took their plan to Hitler.

Also, you are wrong about this "complete control" of Palestine, Syria (it was in Vichy hands - that is not complete control by the Allies by any means - I guess Vichy France was also under complete control by the Allies prior to the Normandy invasion?), Iraq and Palestine. In any event, this "complete control" was accomplished only because of Germany's invasion of Russia.

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If that is an appeal to authority, it fails miserably. Bevin Alexander is not to be taken seriously. The respect he commands among serious historians is reflected in the fact that the highest academic post he ever held was an adjunct professorship at a small regional university not known for the quality of its history department. He is also the author of a book that purports to explain how the South could have won the Civil war - an equally preposterous claim. It is no wonder that the Washignton Post refers to what he does as engaging in parlour games.
I am not appealing to authority. I was providing a source that fully lays out the argument (with the citations you request). Indeed, I even mentioned that this is not the type of argument proper for this forum (look at how long these posts are - really). If you so desire, just read the book and take issue with any part of it you want. Otherwise, I believe that under the circumstances of Germany invading Russia in June 1941, there were better options available to Hitler (hence, him making a "mistake") the failure to take the Suez Canal being one of them.

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You say this as if Rommel had been advocating for a major German offensive against British Mediterranean interests for some time before he was appointed to command Deuteches Afrika Korps (DAK) in February 1941. AFAICT, Rommel had no inkling that he would be involved in any African operation until he was unexpectedly summoned by Hitler from leave on Feb. 6, and given command of what would become DAK.

We have already pointed out there there were not four divisions available, so they could not have been deployed "all at once". The best that could have been done is assign divisons returning from the Balkan campaign (as may have been intended with 2nd Armoured Divison, or deploy some of the ten new amoured divisions when their refit and training was complete, as actually hpeened with 15th Amoured division, or to redirect forces preparing for operation Felix, as happened with the elements of 3rd Armoured that composed the bulk of the newly formed 5th Light Division.
You are incorrect about the divisions not being available. As for whether Rommel advocated 4 divisions in November 1940 or was restating the originally proposed plan of some other general once he was appointed, I am not sure. That post was done entirely off the top of my head, so some aspects may be fuzzy. In any event, I am quite sure (and I will look this up) that the plan was proposed to Hitler prior to November 1940 and it called for 4 divisions. I am also quite sure that Rommel requested 4 divisions once he became involved.

Really, the point is that despite the fact Hitler did in fact send Rommel to capture the Suez Canal, he did so 1) reluctantly; and 2) without proper support. Are you really arguing against this?

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That is quite incorrect. At the time the German assessment of a requirement for 4 armoured divisions was made in November 1940, the British had 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Divisions (supported by 7th Royal Tank Regiment) in the front line, and 6th Australian Division and 2nd New Zealand Divison (less two brigades) in reserve. The Germans certainly knew about both front-line divisions, and were probably aware of the presence of reserve forces. In addition to these forces there were numerous smaller forces scattered around Egypt, and the equivalent of at least six more divisions under C-in-C Middle East. Both the front-line divisions were experienced and well-trained in desert warfare. No German formations had any desert training.
I'll get back to this if necessary (I am getting pretty tired). The point most relevant to my argument is that whatever was on the ground defending Egypt, Rommel almost reach the Suez Canal with what he had (and with an offensive that no longer included the Italians in any substantive way - indeed, the original plan contemplated having the Germans leading the original operation undertaken by the Italians).

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This is probably a good point to examine the origin of the 4 division requirement in more detail. It did not originate with Rommel. Hitler had considered the possibility of German offensives against British Mediterrnean interests as early as late July 1940, as an alternative to an invasion of Great Britain. 3rd Armoured Division was ordered to prepare for operation in support of Italian Forces in Libya, and plans were begun to capture Gibralter and suport indigenous opposition to British forces in Iraq and Palestine. In September and again in October, the Germans offered Italy the use of two armoured divisions for use against Egypt. Mussolini refused to allow German troops into Africa until such time as a final push on Alexandria and Cairo could be commenced, in late 1941 or early 1942. Germany attempted to negotiate Spanish entry into the war for a joint attack on Gibralter, or failing that, Spanish permission for German forces to traverse Spain to attack Gibralter. Spain refused.

In November of 1940, Hitler sent Generalmajor Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, General of Mobile Troops in the Army High Command, to observe the situation after Marshal Graziani's advance into Egypt had come to a self-imposed halt after a 100km advance with no serious opposition. It was von Thoma's appreciation that 4 armoured divisions would be required to defeat the British Western Desert Force. It is important to note other conclusions that accompanied this figure. First, the number four was reached because it would be impossible to supply more than four divisions, due to the limited transportation capacity in Cyrenaica, the length and condition of the land transportation route, and the problem of British interdiction of sea supply routes across the Mediterranean. Second, for this reason of limited supply, all Italian troops would have to be withdrawn from the front. This was, of course, politically impossible. Libya was Italian territory. Finally, the four divisions were the minimum number needed to defeat the four divisions the British were known to have in the immedate area. Any significant increase in British forces would render it impossible to provide supplies to a force large enough to defeat the British. Von Thoma's supply calculations were repeatedly proven correct at the culmination of each of Rommel's offensives into Egypt.
Good. So, we have two divisions available in July 1940, but somehow in November 1941, four would have been impossible.

In any event, Rommel still argued for 4 divisions and claimed he could have gotten the job done with that. I suppose the real issue at hand is whether the Axis could have taken the Suez Canal if the Germans added their four armored divisions to the Italian attack in November 1940. I have not seen anything compelling that would lead me to believe it could not have been done.

Whether four was the maximun really does not matter. The facts show that Rommel almost got it done with far less, and without help from the Italians and at a later time than was anticipated (which allowed further buildup from the Allies).

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Once North Africa falls to the Axis, the canal can be taken. Gibralter remains a factor affecting movement beyond the canal, because until Gibralter is taken, the Royal Navy can continue to interdict Axis trans-Med supply operations.
Again, we disagree. I believe it should go canal first, North Africa after.

Having the base in Alexandria was the key to inderdicting Axis traffic in the Eastern Med. Even in place, the Axis was still able to supply North Africa (and that was without really committing to a North Africa plan). Gibralter would have little significance and it would be difficult to maintain should the Axis subs start operating out of the Western coast of Africa.

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Any seaborne attack on Malta would be opposed by British naval forces based on Gibralter.
Quite certainly. I wouldn't expect anything less.

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The Med doesn't become an Axis Lake until the Royal Navy are booted out of Palestine, Crete and Gibralter, as well as Egypt.
Quite right. How long would Crete stand without Greece, the Balkans, Palestine and Egypt being in Allied hands?

Even with Gibralter in operation, the Med is de facto an Axis Lake - it essentially would exist in a vacume with limited use. This is like saying a house would still stand as long as it's corner stone was in place - even while the rest of the load-bearing walls are removed.





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Exactly how do you think the Axis could supply submarine bases in Africa? Gibralter would continue to serve multiple purposes:
  • Base supporting operations in the Med,
  • Base suppoting convoys going around Africa
  • Base supporting operations in the Mid-Atlantic.
Um, no.
Gibralter would not be able to stand for long on its own as I have already explained.



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He's right. You are completely handwaving away the logistics problems faced by the Axis. Your comments indicate you don't understand the logisitics issues. You emphasize only the length of the total supply path. Length on its own has four impacts:
  • it affects the time that passes between shipment and delivery,
  • it affects the fuel used to transport the supplies
  • it affects the number of carriers required to maintain a given rate of supply, and
  • it can affect the vulnerability of the supplies to destruction by attack on the transport.
Despite what you might think, the first of these was not a real problem for either side. The British kept up a steady supply of food, ammunition and POL (Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants). Heavy equipment (tank, aircraft, artillery, trucks) availability was more a problem of production than of transportation.

Fuel for sea transportation was never really a problem for the British, despite the long sea route. Conversely it was a major problem for the Italian Navy, who had to limit their naval activity because of shortages of fuel supply for their warships. An even bigger problem for the Axis was POL for land surface transport. When the front was in Egypt, they had a much longer surface supply route and lower capacity roads in poorer condition. After O'Conner's offensive, the Axis had fewer trucks available to provide transport. The Axis supply difficulties were exacerbated by the Italian Army's rations system, which relied on a much larger amount of water per person for cooking. Water was scarce and expensive to transport.

In addition to better roads and more supply vehciles, the Allies had a rail line out to Mersa Matruh. A railway is a much more energy-efficient method of transport, and uses a different sort of fuel than what is needed by the military forces. These factors resulted in the Axis having a much higher fuel cost per ton of cargo delivered at the front. The Axis used a large majority of their POL simply in the delivery of supplies. There was little left over to support the manouvering of a multi-division mobile force.

What this adds up to is that in any given period of time the Allies could supply several times as much materiel to the front as the Axis.
Indeed. Quite right. Despite all that, Rommel nearly took the Suez Canal as it was. The logistical problems get solved once that is accomplished. Are you telling me the Axis would keep the same supply routes once they established superior ones by virtue of taking the Canal? I suppose that could happen given some of the non-sensical orders given by Hitler, but I would count on it. Also, you keep talking about the Allies "pouring" in all the resources. From where? The U.S. is not yet in the war; Russia is not yet in the War; Britain is gravely concerned with its homeland. Britain was already "pouring in" all it could given these circumstances - indeed, Churchill was very much concerned with losing Egypt.

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While the Axis needed far fewer ships to keep their supply chain running, they actually had more of a shortage in cargo ships in the Med than the Allies had in their around-Africa runs. They also had less shipbuilding capacity to replace losses suffered.

The convoy route from Britain to Suez was subject to far fewer losses to enemy action than was the convoy route from Italy to Tripoli. From January to June 1941, the Germans lost fully 1/3 of the armoured vehicles they tranported by sea in the Med. That's was enough tanks to fully equip an armoured divison (in fact it was all the tanks of 2nd Armoured Division, rendering that formation useless to send to Africa, as well as that division's reconnaisance vehicles.) 15th Armoured Division's Reconnaisance batallion was also lost at sea. British losses on convoys to Suez due to u-boat and air attack were a much smaller portion of the total shipped.
Fine. But again, Hitler allocated 1 armoured and 1 light armoured division for Rommel - that is what he got. Why does it beggar belief that if they sent 4 divisions at one time that most would have made it? For the entire campaign, Hitler ended up sending (ad hoc) much more than what Rommel asked for to begin with - its just that getting what is needed ad hoc as opposed to all at once is a substantial difference.

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Any supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The Axis supply chain had two links that were weaker than any link in the supply chain to the British forces at the front in the Western Desert - the safety of the sea routes and the capacity of the land routes.
And yet, with what was provided, Rommel almost captured Egypt which would have solved this problem anyway. The argument is that a proper supply of forces for Rommel's use would have allowed him to complete his objective. Is your argument that even if Rommel joined the Italian attack in 1940 with 4 armoured divisions that he would have failed in taking Egypt?

If not, that's what it needs to be since I am arguing the opposite.

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He may but I don't. What you keep ignoring is the origin and significance of that number. It was impossible for the Axis to keep more than four armoured divisions in supply in Egypt. (The closer the forces were to Tripoli, the more could be supplied). Four divisions was not a guarantee of victory no matter the size of the Britsh forces. It was what was required to defeat what the Britsh had in place in November of 1940. Once the 8th Army constituted two corps, four divisions would have been insufficent, but more than four couldn't be kept in supply.

You also ignore the fact that at the time Rommel arrived in Africa, the Germans didn't have four armoured divisions available for service . Almost all operational divisions had already been allocated to other duties. Once Barbarosa began, no more armoured divisions would be available.
I don't believe that if Rommel was send with 4 divisions that he would just hang out in the desert. I believe he would strike towards his objective post haste. Indeed, Rommel more than anyone appreciated the logistical problems facing him the futher he went away from Tripoli. However, I submit that once Egypt is taken, Egypt would no longer be supplied through Tripoli.

Also, by your own words, we have Germany offering Italy 2 armoured divisions in July 1940. Yet, somehow in November 1940, not only would these 2 not exist, but 2 more could not be created. Also, you seem to believe that just because a division does not exist officially on paper that the materiel for such does not exist. Indeed, are we to believe that between November 1940 and May 1940 that Germany created all divisions for Barbarossa from scratch?

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No they were not. Please show which German armoured divsions were operational but unengaged in February 1941. I can only find 7th Armoured.
This would have been good for Britain to know. If so, they could have just walked into Europe through France and been in Berlin by early 1941!

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The general in charge of mobile troops, who had been with panzertruppen ever since they were formed, and who was qualified to make basic logistics assessments, and who personally inspected the logistics net available, said that it would be impossible to keep four armoured divisions supplied if the Italian forces were also to be suppplied. His calculations were repeatedly shown to be essentially correct by actual supply situations in the desert over the next 12 months. The logistics problems of the desert war are a favourite topic in staff colleges in several of the worlds' major armies. They come to the same conclusion. Why should I believe you rather than them?
We should believe HIM! Of course, as things were, the Italians kicked off the campaign by themselves and failed. After that, Rommel was sent in with 1.5 armored divisions. Again, Rommel was asked what he needed and he said it could be done with 4, yet 4 was not supplied. Just as you believe the general in charge of mobile troops, I am inclined to believe the general that wanted 4 divisions and almost made is objective with 1.5!

It may be the case I advocate having the 4 divisions join the Italians, but in any event, that did not happen. I suppose if it was a problem with supplying more than 4, then let's just move the scenario forward in November 1940 but with 4 German divisions and no Italians.

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Of course, it would be a piece of cake for the Germans to supply operations in the Tigris and Euphrates valley with trucks driven from Tripoli Benghazi and Tobruk down the coast road to Palestine and then across desert tracks. In the unlikely event that German forces ever came near Iraq or Arabia, do you really think the British would leave the refineries intact?
You mean, before the British actually had any semblace of control over them. Again, this did not happen until August 1941.


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The sea route was much shorter but the Axis sea route was much more dangerous, resulting in a much higher loss rate. This danger could not be alleviated until Malta, and Gibralter fell. The land route in Egypt was much longer for the Germans than for the British, and was of much lower capacity, and had a much higher fuel cost per ton-mile.

The Germans never seriously considered a major u-boat base in Africa, in part because keeping it supplied and secure would have been prohibitively costly.
Right. Imagine what would have happened if Hitler actually made it a priority to take the Suez Canal. I suppose this problem would still exist exactly as you state.

The Germans never considered anything major in Africa - U-boats or otherwise. The point of this exercise is seeing the possibilities available to them if they had.

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Suez can't fall until Malta falls. Malta is one of the two reasons that Germany cannot supply a large enough force to take the Canal. I've already listed some of the purposes of Gibralter.
No. Rommel wasn't stopped short because of his supplies being sunk - he had more supplies stopped in Rome by Kesselring than from anything else. Again, with what he had, he came very close to meeting his objective. If Rommel had the 4 divisions he requested, he would have taken Egypt whether Malta was in place, or not.

Again, over the campaign, Rommel was supplied more than the 4 divisions he requested from the outset. Hitler did not want to give him that. If Hitler had committed to the plan and committed to providing the 4 divisions, it would have been done.

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If Egypt is taken but Crete remains in British hands, the Eastern Squadrons of the Royal Navy's Mediterranenean Fleet would operate out of Crete (as long as fuel supplies allowed) , denying the Germans use of Egyptian ports, and harrassing traffic on the coast road. Greece had also given Britain permission to survey Cree and parts of souten Greece for teh purpose of constuction of airfields. Germany was concenred that these airfields would be used to bomb the Romainian oildifields which were teh source of nearly all of Germany's oil supply. Even if Germany had deployed 4 armoured divisions in North Africa, they would not have been able to guarantee that the British wpuld ot be able to get airfieds up and runnig before the canal fell.
I already discussed Crete. You point out the problem in your parenthetical.

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Ever wonder why? Think it could be because Malta was a much tougher nut to crack? Or was it that protecting their strategic oil supply was more important than than protecting supply routes to a sideshow.
Yeah, I have. Its because Hitler didn't see the big picture - that Crete would die on the vine if Egypt was taken. Yes, Malta would be much tougher to crack, but as things were, Malta barely hung on from German bombing and preventing resupply.

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Don't forget Haifa. Frankly, none was entirely dependent on any of the others, except that a loss of both Alexandria and Gibralter would eventually prove fatal to the rest. However, Alexandria was safe as long as Malta remained operational.
Except, it it wasn't, really. Rommell almost took Egypt with what he had; my argument is that if he had been provided with what he claimed he needed, then it would have happened. But, you say that it wouldn't matter because Alexandria is safe as long as Malta is operational?

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While the Allies were primarily in reactive mode, they had a major advantage in intelligence to let them react appropriately. If the British knew that Rommel was to receive 4 armoured divisons, they would not have ended 'Cooner's offensive, dispersed 7th Armoured, nor directed three divisions to Greece. Rather they would have continued O'Conner's offensive before the German forces could be unloaded and made operational. The Allies knew what forces Rommel was getting and when he was getting them - they just miscalulated how soon he would act. If they thought he was getting significantly more forces, they never would have let him get started.
Okay, so these actions are all against the Italian forces that would have been replaced by Rommel and his divisions in the first place.

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Sort of like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. When Stalin saw an actual military move he would have acted. But the necessary actions might have been no more than putting an infantry corps into the Caucasus. As long as he wasn't actually at war with Germany, he may have been content to let German and British forces fight over Iraq and Persia. That is not a given, however. Long-standing Russian policy considered Persia to be within the Russian sphere of influence.
And Yugoslavia wasn't? I guess we can assume that this "long standing policy" will be shelved when we want it to be, and then adhered to when we want it to be.

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However, it is erroneous to say that Stalin was trying to keep Russia out of a war with Germany. Rather he wnted that war to be fought when he was ready, and he was building up faster than the Germans. Russia considered such a war inevitable. So did Germany. One of the reasons that the initial German attacks on Russia were so successful is that the Russian forces were deployed as if preparing for an offensive, not deployed on the defensive.
It is safe to say that Stalin did not want a war in 1941; he probably didn't want one in 1942, either.

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Please explain which divisons would be freed up, and which divisions would be allocated to occupation duties if the Germans occupied more territory before attacking Russia.
That's been covered.

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How long does it take to rebuild a refinery?
depends.

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Mostly from America, and the Caribbean. At that time, so did most of the rest of the world except Russia and Asia (one of the main reasons Spain would not join the war).

Not feasible in the capacity or time scale required.

Using what tankers? Protected from the Royal Navy how?
So, to supply the middle east and Persia with oil from the Middle east and Persia, you have to do so by sea?

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Mostly by tankers from Texas, Mexico, Aruba and Curacao.

After taly entered the war, Middle East oil went to Australia, India and Egypt. Export to Britain was discontinued. Middle East oil production actually declined during the war.


He may be, but I am arguing that the options you propose would not be better. A Caucasus front would have delayed the attack on Russia by two years and weakened the attacking German forces much more than the defending Russian forces. The Germans would not have been able to make profitable use of Middle-east oil for years. Securing the Mediterranean but not going after Iraq or the Caucasus would have delayed the attack on Russia by one year. We have no way of knowing if this would have ensured the success of the German attack on Russia, or led to a preemptive attack by Russia.
Okay, so your argument is that given that Hitler was going to attack Russia, his decision to do so at that time and place was correct? Or, if he made mistakes, what could he have done that was better. I believe Hitler made a lot of mistakes, many of which concern his invasion of Russia. Out of those, I believe that taking the Suez Canal was a better option than just conducting Barbarossa as he did. In any event, you ignore the fact that Hitler (reluctantly) tried to take Egypt anyway and he almost did it despite undertaking the operation in a half-ass manner. I submit that he should have made it a priority or just stayed out of North Africa altogether.

What happens after him taking the Suez Canal is anyone's guess. I am just saying that having the Suez Canal opens a lot of opportunities and creates a lot of leverage that could bear fruit in a number of ways. You seem to disagree as you find it imperative that Hitler invade Russia in 1941. I think the facts show that Hitler made a mistake in going forward with Barbarossa in June 1941.

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I think you are dreaming in technicolor. What you are propsign are not better choices. Taking the Suez Canal delays the attack on Russia by a year, reduces forces available for that attack, and gains Germany nothing that will help the attack on Russia. Since the conquest of Russia is the number one war aim of Germany, none of this would be allowed to happen. (It is great for the Italians though. Now they can fight the British for control of the Sudan.) It might delay an Allied attack on Italy or Southern France by a few months, or it may divert their landings to Iberia.
I find the overall tone of your post to be disrespectful. I find that to be a shame because you are obviously more well-versed in these matters than I am and I am impressed with your knowledge. However, I think your overall objective to "get me" has clouded your ability to understand just what I am arguing. I think you have taken great liberties in taking my argument far beyond its purpose. I have not stated that any such result is guaranteed, especially what might happen after Egypt is taken. That some possibilities exist are just that - possibilities. It is fun to discuss them, whether they prove to be reasonable, or not.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:11 PM   #63
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

DoTheMath and JayTee: After reading your posts, I see this debate requires more precision from my side. I take your facts and sources at face value. To make things simple, I will cite directly from Bevin Alexander's "How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, The Fatal Errors That Let To Nazi Defeat," to properly lay out some facts. My intent here is to focus our debate and I will set forth some conditions that would lead me to believe your side of the debate.

First of all, DotheMath is critical of Bevin Alexander. I looked into his credentials, and I don't see any issues. If you were to present some criticism of his (outside of the criticism directed at his book on how the South could have won the Civil War) work or credentials, I will be happy to entertain them. On the other hand, he seems to have won a number of awards and his military history works have won high praise. Again, if there is a problem with him, I am open to it. Of course, should anything I submit from him be proven demonstrably false, I will also have an entirely different opinion as to whether he is credible.

1. Jodl recommends taking Egypt

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In a June 30, 1940 memorandum, Jodl wrote that if the strike across the Channel did not come off, the Mediterranean offered the best arean to defeat Britain. his recommendation was to seize Egypt and the Suez Canal. Maybe the Italians could do it alone. If not, the Germans could help.

At the time the British had only 36,000 men in Egypt, including a single incomplete armored division under the command of General Sir Archibald Wavell. pp. 45-46
2. On July 31 (Hitler had yet to respond to Jodl) Halder and von Brauchitsch proposed sending panzer forces and aircraft to Libya to help the Italians, who were planning and offensive into Egypt. p. 46.

3. Aside from invading Russia, Hitler was only interested in Gibralter and also the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. Admiral Raeder disabused him of these ideas (at least at that time) during meetings on September 6 and 26. At the second meeting Raeder argued the Axis should capture the Suez Canal. p. 48.

4. Churchill
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no one realized this truth better than Winston Churchill. In a message to President Roosevelt a few months later, he asserted that if Egypt and the Midle East were lost, continuation of the war 'would be a hard, long, and bleak proposision,' even if the United States entered.
5. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of staff of the OKW, "told Benito Mussolini that capture of Cairo was more important than capture of London." p. 49

6. Raeder's plan expanded:

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Once Axis forces overran Egypt and the Suez Canal, they would close the eastern Mediterranean to the Royal Navy. The Britis fleet would immediately retreat into the Red Sea, because it could not be adequately supplied by convoys throught the western Mediterranean. Whether or not the Germans seized Gibralter, Britain would be strategically paralyzed.

The Axis would be able to move at will into the Middle East, for the British had no substantial forces there. ... p. 49

... An advance on the southern frontier of Turkey would put the Turks in an impossible position. Hitler was alrady gaining Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria as allies. Therefore, Turkey could be approached both by way of Bulgaria at Istanbul and from northern Iraq and Syria. ...

... Passage through Turkey would reduce the importance of Malta and Gibralter.

... In the Middle East the strategic payoff would be much greater. German forces in Iran would block that country as a route for supplies to the Soviet Union from Britain and the United States. p. 50

... Even more important, the Soviet Unions' major oil fields were inthe Caucasus and anlong the western shore of the Caspian Sea, just north of Iran. Germany could threaten not only any attack directly from Poland and Romania in the west but also from the south through the Caucasus to the Soviet oil fields. p. 51
7. Clarification regarding the decision for German involvment in North Africa/Rommel.

a. Contrary to what I previously typed, once Hitler passed (indirectly) on Jodl's proposal, subsequent discussion of involving Germany always was to have the Italians go about it alone with potential support down the road.

b. Rommel was not involved in any preliminary plans. Indeed, prior to October 1940, the Germans did offer the Panzer Corps. and aircraft, but Mussolini did not respond. With things not progressing well, Major General Wilhelm von Thoma was sent to North Africa to find out whether German forces should help the Italians (and take over operations) p. 53.

c. Thoma responded that 4 armored divisions could be supported and that these four would be sufficient to complete the objective. Hitler offered one; Thoma told him in that case, he should give up the whole idea. p. 53.

d. "At the time Germany possessed twenty panzer divisions, none being used." p. 53

e. O'Connor starts his counter attack on December 8 - O'Connor pretty much rolled up the Italians after his January 21 attack. "The British could have continued on to Tripoli. Unfortunately, Churchill decided to hold the back the British reserves ... " (for Greece as Mussolini had attacked it October 28). p. 55

f. Rommel
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On February 6, 1941 ... Hilter summoned Erwin Rommel ... the force was not the four panzer divisions General von Thoma had calculated was needed to seize Suez and conquer the Middle East. Rather it consisted of the single panzer division Hilter said he could spare (the 15th), plus a small tank-equipped mororized division (5th light). p. 56
g.
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On March 19, Rommel flew to Hitler's headquarters to get frest instructions. Walther von Brauchitsch, commander in cheif of the army, and Franz Halder, chief of staff, told Rommel there was no intention of striking a decisive blow in Africa, and he could expect no reinforcements.

Rommel tried to convince them that the weakness of the British in North Africa should be exploited. ... Rommel wanted two additional panzer divisions to complete conquest of Egypt. p. 76
8. Hitler orders build up for Balkan invasion: Hitler committed to invading the Balkans and Greece in November 1940. From then until the third week of February 1941 the Germans massed 680,00 troops in Romania. p. 57

9. Crete over Malta: Hitler chose to invade Crete over the objections of "Admiral Raeder, the navy high command, and elements ofthe OKW." p. 61.

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Once the Balkans had been seized by the Germans, Crete strategically fell into a twilight zone. For the British, long-range bombers based on Crete could reach the Ploesti oil fields in Romania ... but RAF bases on the island could be blasted by German aircraft a hundred miles away in southern Greece. For the Germans, occupation made no more sense, because aircraft based there would be farther from Cairo and Alexandria than planes in eastern Cyrenaica. p. 62

... Raeder and the navy high command agitated for an assault on Malta. .... Several OKW staff officers - awake to the danger of Malta ... also pleaded with Jodl and Keitel to urge Hitler to tackle the island at once.
So, that should clean up the timeline.

What I am interested in (which would make me believe Rommel could not have put this plan into action) is

1. Were there panzer divisions available, and/or materiel and troops to formally put these divisions together?

2. Was the British presence in the Middle East/Persia as scant as represented by Alexander? (I have also quoted a passage from Andrew Roberts which seems to confirm the lack of military presence in these areas.)

3. Was Thoma correct that 1) the Germans could supply 4 panzer divisions; 2) could Rommel have taken Egypt and the Middle East with the 2 additional panzer divisions he requested in March 1941?

4. Would it have been possible to sucessfully invade Malta with the same-size force that was used to invade Crete? Upon reflection, I agree with DotheMath's contention that to get all the support requested by Rommel in the field, Malta would have to be invaded. Related to that, I contend that there were sufficient forces available to capture or eliminate Malta.
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Old 01-03-2013, 07:12 AM   #64
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I find the overall tone of your post to be disrespectful.
I plead guilty as charged.

The lack of respect was a reaction to what I thought was a reasonably informed person advocating obviously preposterous ideas. However, if you know nothing about logistics, or the creation, training and deployment of military formations, and have a limited grasp of strategic principles and have read little about the war in North Africa except Bevin Alexander's book, I can see how you would reach the conclusions you have, and why my attitude would be inappropriate.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I find that to be a shame because you are obviously more well-versed in these matters than I am and I am impressed with your knowledge.
Besides fine food and drink, music, photograhy, and poker, the study of military history has been a major hobby. I have been fortunate to have had both the time and resources to pursue that hobby more than most. I am particularly interested in WWII mechanized warfare in North Africa and Western Europe. (The Battle of the Atlantic is a second interest.) I first began studying the Desert War over 40 years ago. My personal library has over two dozen books on mechanized war in North Africa and Western Europe, and I have probably read several times that number, as well as numerous magazine articles. For a time I was involved in serious military simulation gaming, not just commercial games, but the design and development of what the British and Commonwealth forces used to call TEWTs - Tactical Exercises Without Troops. I interacted with a number of then-serving and former military officers, including the serving logistics officer of a brigade group. I also knew personnel at D-Hist - the Canadian Forces Directorate of History, and for a time was the most frequent non-academic user of the Library of the Canadian War Museum. I knew people who served in North Africa, including my own father, and people who served in the Deutches Panzertruppen (though not DAK). Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think this gives me enough background to confidently proclaim either Bevin Alexander's claims, or your interpretation of them, to be preposterous. For now, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and presume you have been honestly taken in by him.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
However, I think your overall objective to "get me" has clouded your ability to understand just what I am arguing.
I can see how you might think that. I don't particularly care about "getting" anybody. I do want to correct the spread of misinformation about a subject in which I am interested.



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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I think you have taken great liberties in taking my argument far beyond its purpose. I have not stated that any such result is guaranteed, especially what might happen after Egypt is taken. That some possibilities exist are just that - possibilities. It is fun to discuss them, whether they prove to be reasonable, or not.
I have tried not to take issue with the projected end results so much as the question of whether the possibilities you mentioned were realistic choices. I'll go so far as to say that I think that it is possible that if Rommel had had 4 armoured divisions in North Africa in February of 1941, and was able to properly supply them in Egypt, he very well might have reached the Suez Canal. My points are
  • that there was never any realistic possibility of Rommel being given four armoured divisions at that time,
  • there was never any realistic possibility of him being able to keep four armoured divisions plus the Italian troops in supply before the autumn of 1941, if they reached Egypt,
  • there was never any realistic possibility of the Italian troops not being reinforced, let alone being withdrawn,
  • and finally, even if Rommel had miraculously captured the canal with fewer forces, there was never any realistic possibility of German forces constituting a serious threat to Russia from the South of the Caucasus.
Such being the case, it is not reasonable to say Hitler made a mistake by failing to give Rommel four Panzer divisions. It was not a choice he could have made.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
DoTheMath and JayTee: After reading your posts, I see this debate requires more precision from my side. I take your facts and sources at face value. To make things simple, I will cite directly from Bevin Alexander's "How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, The Fatal Errors That Let To Nazi Defeat," to properly lay out some facts. My intent here is to focus our debate and I will set forth some conditions that would lead me to believe your side of the debate.
I can see a number of problems with the statements you have quoted. Not having read the book, I can't tell if you have misinterpreted them, taken things out of context or if Alexander is just plain wrong. I suspect the latter. If I have the time (not at all certain), I might try to lay my hands on a copy of the book. (OTOH I also see a few things he says which confirm points I made in contradiction to your earier posts. This gives me less comfort than one might think, because I am not sure confirmation by Bevin Alexander is to be taken as a positive thing.)

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
First of all, DotheMath is critical of Bevin Alexander. I looked into his credentials, and I don't see any issues.
How would you recognize a reputable historian?

Just about the only credentials of this guy seem to be self-promotion or promotion by his publishers. The single outside endorsement that seems to exist comes from a somewhat obscure academic source concerned with an entirely different war, and one probably biased to a simlar viewpoint as his own.

From what little I have read about the guy, I see somebody who only became an adjunct professor late in life. He did not pursue a scholarly career. He was not employed by a highly reputed history faculty. He is a controversialist whose ideas about WWII have found no significant traction with noted historians. If you have reported correctly, he has made a number of profound factual errors. He appears ignorant of logistical concepts in mechanized warfare, and misapplies certain strategic principles.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
If you were to present some criticism of his (outside of the criticism directed at his book on how the South could have won the Civil War) work or credentials, I will be happy to entertain them.
I'd need to read his work to go much farther.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
On the other hand, he seems to have won a number of awards
? I note one positive comment from a southern universtity review journal of civil war publications. What awards has he won?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and his military history works have won high praise.
Really? From anybody who matters?

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Again, if there is a problem with him, I am open to it. Of course, should anything I submit from him be proven demonstrably false, I will also have an entirely different opinion as to whether he is credible.
You are tempting me.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
...

What I am interested in (which would make me believe Rommel could not have put this plan into action) is

1. Were there panzer divisions available, and/or materiel and troops to formally put these divisions together?
If the Germans had had the equipment to put together more panzer divisions, they almost certainly would have done so. There was not more equipment.

Alexander seems to say there were 20 panzer divisions available with nothing to do. I say that in February 1941, I have found one that could be described as having nothing to do, but only if you consider serving as the strategic mobile reserve for the whole country "nothing to do".

To deal more thoroughly with the degree of incorrectness in his statement, I would need to know the timelines to which it applies. The statement cannot be correct at any time before October 1940, because a number of the second group of 10 panzer divisions were not "formed" until October. However, a division that has been "formed" in October is not available in October. Its troops need to be issued new equipment and trained before the division becomes available for operations. This takes months (or in some non-German cases, years). As a rough guide, consider any of PzDivs numbered 11 though 20 to be unavailable for 3-4 months after the formal date of formation. Of the first 10 PzDivs., all had taken damage and had worn out equipment. The operational life of armoured vehicles in combat conditions is measured in weeks or months, not years. These 10 divisions were absorbing replacements, getting new equipment, losing half their armour, undergoing changes of organization and command, training with the new organization/equipment/personnel and otherwise not in combat-ready condition for some time after the fall of France. Most of these divisions would return to operational status before the second batch of 10 divisions would be ready, but they were given jobs, such as occupation of France and Poland, preparation for a move to Africa, preparation for Operations Felix and Marita, guarding the Ploesti oilfields, training allied forces, and guarding the partition line in Poland and the other eastern boundaries of the Reich. Only an amateur would consider divisions undertaking such tasks as being available for deployment to Africa and having nothing to do.

Furthermore, preparing for deployment to Africa was considerably more work than preparing for deployment elsewhere in Europe. African service required modification to vehicles, provision of, and training in, specialized equipment, some of which had to be manufactured from scratch, and special additions to component forces. In theory it should also have included specialized tactical and operational training, and other forms of indoctrination, but this doen't appear to have happened for the original components of 5Lt or 15Pz. (A desert warfare training centre was established later (in Bavaria?).)

The statement that 20 armoured divisions were available certainly cannot be true after the beginning of 1941, because by January the forces for Operation Marita were being deployed to Bulgaria. After Marita and operations in Yugoslavia, the divisions were refitted and deployed for Barbarossa.

So I am having a hard time identifying any point in time in which Germany had 20 operational armoured divisions without any operational responsibilities. In fact, I am having a hard time identifying a period of more than a couple weeks in which it had more than one operational armoured division with no operational responsibilities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
2. Was the British presence in the Middle East/Persia as scant as represented by Alexander? (I have also quoted a passage from Andrew Roberts which seems to confirm the lack of military presence in these areas.)
It depends. What was said about the British military presence in Eqypt is almost correct as to the state at the beginning of June 1940, before Italy entered the war. (It ignores some smaller units that were not part of larger formations.) However, by July, it is no longer correct. IIRC, it was 4th Indian Div that arrived in July. The New Zealand and Australian Divisions arrived later, but before November 1940. I correctly told you the major British forces present in Eqypt at the time von Thoma made his estimate of the need for four armoured divisions. Going by memory, I would say that around January 1941, C-in-C Middle East had forces at his call outside Egypt equivalent to approximately 8 divisions. Most of these were employed in taking over Vichy Syria and Lebanon, putting down Axis-inspired or instigated revolts in Palestine and Iraq, and capturing Italian East Africa. These operations were completed at about the same time Rommel's first offensive ground to a halt (for want of fuel) at the Egyptian frontier in May 1941.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
3. Was Thoma correct that 1) the Germans could supply 4 panzer divisions; 2) could Rommel have taken Egypt and the Middle East with the 2 additional panzer divisions he requested in March 1941?
1) Depends what you mean by "supply". If you mean deploy four panzer divisions to Africa, von Thoma never claimed that Germany could provide four panzer divisions. He merely said that was the force that was required to get to the canal.

If you mean could provide to the front the supplies needed to keep four panzer divisions operational, he probably was correct at the time he said it, that Germany and Italy could deliver enough provisions to the front to keep four panzer divisions operational. Between the time he said it and the time Rommel arrived, conditions had changed materially.





2) It depends. I think Rommel had a chance to take coastal Egypt up to the Canal if he had had four supplied panzer divisions in early 1941. But remember that von Thoma's appreciation was based on
  • a start line 100km inside the Egyptian frontier,
  • opposition on the scale the British had available in November
  • the existing supply dumps and the number of trucks currently moving supplies in North Africa, plus the number of trucks that would normally come with the panzer divisions.
  • the then-current degree of interdiction that British naval and air units were able to apply to Axis supply routes.
  • there being no substantial Italian troops to be supplied east of Tripolitania.
The first of these conditions no longer applied when Rommel arrived in February 1941. The Axis had been pushed back to Tripolitania. The Axis could supply significantly more troops if they were all in Tripolitania.

The second condition had also changed in the Axis' favour by late February, because of the diversion of three divisions to Greece in response to the Italian invasion from Albania and the German deployments in Bulgaria. However, if Rommel had been given two more divisions, this diversion would not have occurred.

The Italians lost nearly all of their supply dumps and trucks to O'Conner. He used the ones he captured to ensure that he wouldn't run into supply problems as his distance from base increased substantially. OTOH, as long as the Axis forces were in Tripolitania, they didn't need nearly as many trucks to move supplies from port to front.

It is unlikely that von Thoma's appreciation properly took into account the deleterious effects of the Battle of Taranto on the Regia Marina's ability to protect supply convoys. I don't know the exact dates of his trip to Africa or the date his report was finished, but Taranto took place in mid-November and the impacts of the temporary loss of half the Italian battleships would not be known for a matter of at least a couple of weeks. Therefore, he probably overestimated the quantity of supplies that could be delivered to Tripoli.

I don't believe von Thoma said that Germany could take the Middle East with only four Panzer divisions. It is obvious that they could not. He was talking about clearing coastal Egypt up to the canal.

The general thrust of von Thoma's calculation on the limits of supply were proven correct again and again. For instance, Rommel's first offensive (with only two armoured divisions) stopped at the Egyptian frontier because he was running out of fuel, not because he met organized resistance. With four armoured divisions, he would be able to go only half as far. Rommel's last offensive was constrained in its manouvers because of a fuel shortage. His ability to manouver defensively against Montgomery at Second Alamein was also limited by fuel shortages. If you read the Rommel papers, or the Ultra decrypts, you will find constant references to strategic fuel shortages impairing the ability of Rommel's forces to move.

The final condition von Thoma mentioned was, of course, politically impossible - a hard fact which Bevin Alexander blithely ignores.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
4. Would it have been possible to sucessfully invade Malta with the same-size force that was used to invade Crete? Upon reflection, I agree with DotheMath's contention that to get all the support requested by Rommel in the field, Malta would have to be invaded. Related to that, I contend that there were sufficient forces available to capture or eliminate Malta.
Planning for Operation Merkure (planned invasion of Malta in 1942) indicated that a much larger force was needed to take Malta. The invasion would have to be a combination of airborne and seaborne landings. In early 1941, the Axis had insufficient numbers of landing craft in the Med to carry the landing force, and no troops trained in sea landings. In preparation for Merkure, the Germans shipped landing craft that had been built for Sealion (invason of Britain) down the Rhone river (they couldn't send them by sea because of Gibralter), and the Italians built a large number of copies. Merkure was called off for two reasons, one of which was the same reason why Sealion was cancelled: the Axis were unable to guarantee sufficient air or naval superiority to protect the landings. In addition, a number of the formations intended for Merkure were diverted to Africa to support Rommel's last offensive.

It is my opinion that if Germany had delayed Barbarossa until 1942, and directed serious effort at securing the Med, starting with operation Felix Heinrich (conquest of Gibralter in the face of Spanish opposition), they could have taken Malta, though with even worse casualities than in Crete. After this, Egypt would fall. It is also my opinion that if Germany had done this, the cost in forces lost in operations and needed to pacify Spain and protect against a counter-invasion of Portugal would have signifcantly weakened Barbarossa.

Last edited by DoTheMath; 01-03-2013 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:47 PM   #65
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

Omg that's the longest quotes ever. I don't even know what to say... Well put!
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Old 01-10-2013, 04:09 PM   #66
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

It adds insult to injury when your enemies are detailing meticulously how you could not have won the war with better choices.

A+ guys, keep it going.

PS: It's Deutsches Afrika Korps.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:15 PM   #67
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
I plead guilty as charged.

The lack of respect was a reaction to what I thought was a reasonably informed person advocating obviously preposterous ideas. However, if you know nothing about logistics, or the creation, training and deployment of military formations, and have a limited grasp of strategic principles and have read little about the war in North Africa except Bevin Alexander's book, I can see how you would reach the conclusions you have, and why my attitude would be inappropriate.
This insult is uncalled for. I have read at least 100 books on World War II (and certainly do not claim to be an authority by any measure). Despite the fact you persist in taking such a tone, I will continue the debate. However, this post will just cut to the quick. Perhaps I will address some of your "finer" points later on down the road.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This forum is a poor place to really lay out the entire argument.
I think this has been proven.

Anyhow, you have made a lot of taking Brevin Alexander's credentials to task. Despite the fact I asked you to provide a criticism of him or the book in which he lays out his argument, you have failed to do so. Instead (ignoring the fact he was a career historian for the military and a paid consultant to the military as well as holding a high position at the University of Virginia) you again dismiss his argument based on the fact he recently became an adjunct professor at a small university. I find your approach to be intellectually dishonest - you disregard the argument based on your (unfounded) opinion of Alexander's credentials. Instead, you insert your self-studies as superior to his; even though his work is well cited (and contains far more sources than you claim to have read). Indeed, you take your experience as a hobbyist and declare that to be superior to a career military historian and claim you can reject his argument without reading it.

Fine.

Thankfully, as I stated previously, I was only providing Alexander as one of the examples of the notion that 1) the Suez Canal was strategically important for the Axis (as well as the Allies); 2) that it could have been taken if the proper investment in that goal had been made by Hitler; 3) that taken the Canal would have opened up a lot of other possibilities; and 4) Failing to concentrate on taking the Canal was a mistake.

So, let's just leave Alexander aside and replace him with Andrew Roberts. I am interested in seeing how you will attack his credentials. The following excerpt is from his 2009 book "The Storm of War." To save you some time, The Storm of War was awarded British Army Military Book of the Year 2010.

The Storm of war runs 577 pages of history on the war, then includes about 30 pages of "Conclusions." The book has nearly 1,000 cites.

Quote:
Considering that Rommel took Tobruk and got to within 60 miles of Alexandria by October 1942 with the twelve-division Afrika Korps, a fraction of the force that was thrown against Russia could have swept the British from Egypt, Palestine, Iran and Iraq long beforehand. Taking Cairo would have opened up a four glittering prospects, namely the capture with relative ease of the almost undefended oilfields of Iran and Iraq, the expulsion of the Royal Navy from its major base in the Mediterranean at Alexandria, the closing of the Suez Canal to Allied shipping, and the prospect of attacking India from the north-west just as Japan threatened her from the north-east. Stationed in the Middle East, the Germans would have cut Britain off from the her oil supplies, and posed a threat against British India from the west, but also against the Soviet Union and the Caucuses from the south. ... (he also goes on to explain that even if the Axis did not take full opportunity to exploit this gain, that it would at least have the effect of causing the Allies to invest significant resources in the Middle East/Persia to defend it - up to such point, that had not been done.)

Hitler could have then undertaken his invasion of Russia in his own time with Army Group South moving only a few hundred miles from Iraq to Astrakhan, rather than more than 1,000 miles as it had to in 1941 and 1942. Considering how much Stalin decried the idea that Hitler would ever attack him in 1941 0 despite the eighty intelligence reports from dozens of unrelated sources from all over the world that Barbarossa was impending, some of which furnished the precise date - there is no real reason to suppose that the USSR would have been on any better war footing in the summer of 1942, or 1943 than she was in 1941. Army Group South should have taken the Caucasus from the south rather than the west. ... etc.
Roberts, Andrew. "The Storm of War" p. 588

This argument appears in the Conclusions section of his book and is based on the facts and circumstances fully fleshed out within the preceding chapters. His conclusions are well-supported and cited. It so happens I did not read that passage until last night. It so happens, Roberts' conclusions are consistent with (if not mirror) those of Alexander. It so happens, Alexander's work was not a source of Roberts' book (Indeed, Alexander's book is an argument which is well sourced; Robert's book is a history book with his conclusions following the history - this is why I suggested Alexander to begin with because he lays out a sophisticated argument without having to provide a history of the entire war). Yet, Roberts reaches the same conclusions as Alexander (at least on the point of contention regarding the Suez Canal) using his own sources.

I simply offered that fact that Hitler failing to take the Suez Canal was a "mistake." You vehemently contest it on two grounds: 1. That the Suez Canal was not an important strategic target (especially since these "opportunities" offered by its capture are in your words "fantasy."); 2. That it was impossible (granted favorably to you - under the circumstances of the pending Operation Barbarossa) for the Axis to take the Suez Canal. In sum, you decry one advancing this argument as "advocating obviously preposterous ideas."

I suppose now you are going to claim Roberts is "advocating obviously preposterous ideas." I would suppose that any historian disagreeing with your meta-conclusions based on your studies undertaken on a micro-topic of the War would receive the same treatment.

You take some significant issues with certain facts, which to be honest, I have not found any other source to support:

1. That the Middle East was lightly defended. You claim it was well defended. I have not found any source that agrees with you. To the contrary, I have already provided an account that states, "the campaigns were not large (referring to the mid-1941 British operations in the Middle East) they were conducted without much fanfare and each with laughably limited resources ... but they were crucial for Britain's survival" Lyman, Robert, "First Victory: Britain's Forgotten Struggle in the Middle East, 1941," p. 2. I have read many other works that state the same thing - that the Allied military presence in the Middle East was scant, at best.

Instead, you have incorrectly stated that the forces in the area were significant and that they had control over the oilfields, etc. The truth is the opposite, Britain's access to these oilfields was due to political and economic means at that time; it was not consolidated with military force until August 1941. Not to mention, the political leanings in those areas were mixed - if not pro-Axis. You also made the absurd claim that Vichy-French areas of the Middle East would pose significant problems for the Axis.

2. You claim that Stalin was not properly apprised of Barbarossa. All the sources I have read claim that 1) he was indeed given quite accurate information from reliable sources; but 2) he chose to ignore it. This goes to your point that Stalin would not have stood idle while the Axis was moving on the Middle East (as well as reaching a diplomatic resolution with Turkey). You claim he would have sprung into action to protect these other territories. To do so, you dismiss the argument that Stalin was not even moving to protect Russia from imminent attack. You have not sourced any of your arguments regarding this.

You also take the position that Barbarossa could not be delayed another year (or two, or more) because Stalin was planning to invade Germany himself (or at least seeking a war with Germany). You have not supported this proposition. Instead, you stated, Stalin did not want war until 1943 (with the conclusion that he was then ramping up for a war). I think this is misleading - Stalin stated Russia would not be ready for war until at least 1943 - that is quite different that actively seeking out a war at that time. Furthermore, Stalin was (of course) still working on getting his military in shape, but it was not with the same urgency as we saw once Barbarossa was underway.

Again, your conclusions are not supported by the facts. In no case, was Hitler under any apprehension that he would be missing a window of opportunity to attack Russia (meaning, he was worried that Russia would shortly be able to position herself to withstand his attack) if he did not do so in 1941. Indeed, Hitler's original plan was not to seek a wide-spread war until 1943 or later - he fell into the war because he was reckless. In any event, most historians (that I have read) agree that the attack on Russia (if it ever was to be prudent under any circumstances) happened too early.

Yet, you argue Barbarossa HAD to happen just when it did. I don't agree with that notion (to say the least). Of course, pinning Barbarossa down as you do, solves your argument that Hitler simply did not have the resources to commit to North Africa and (potentially) the Middle East. That is a convenient "out" for you, but really, it is neither here nor there as this scenario is a precondition to Barbarossa.

3. You claim Hitler did not have the resources to equip Rommel with 4 armored divisions in November 1940. You claim you have looked and found only 1 division that was not assigned (you have not sourced this, by the way). Furthermore, you claim equipping these divisions would be delayed as they had to be modified for the desert (fair enough). Then you conclude that whatever divisions were available would have been used for Marita, anyway.

I find your claim that Hitler lacked the resources to be unfounded (if not illogical). First of all, Operation Sealion was cancelled in September 1940. What were the Germans planning to invade with? Looking at the proposed order of battle, I see at least 4 Panzer divisions. Are you claiming they did not exist? Furthermore, the need for Marita did not even come into place until November/December 1940, anyway (and it is still a point of debate as to whether Hitler needed to undertake that operation in any event). I bring this point up only to highlight your contention that 20 armored divisions were not available to Hitler at the relative time because you only found 1 to be available. To show your position is misinformed, this one example should suffice.

You claim it takes months to modify the armored divisions for the desert. I assume this is correct. The facts show that it took about 4 months from commitment/planning to have the 15th Panzer in Africa. My scenario calls for 4 divisions in November or shortly thereafter. Von Thoma proposed 4 divisions to Hitler in July 1940. Had Hitler accepted the proposal, there is no reason to believe the divisions could not be ready for desert operations by November/December 1940 (granted, getting them there is still a problem with Malta in place).

4. In an earlier post, you claimed that you will side with Von Thoma's appraisal of the situation (at that time, you simply referred to him as The general in charge of mobile troops, who had been with panzertruppen ever since they were formed, and who was qualified to make basic logistics assessments, and who personally inspected the logistics net available ..."). Well, I cited were he stated that 4 armored divisions could be supported and that the Suez Canal could be taken with 4 armored divisions. Yet, now you don't seem to side with him as you claim such a task was "logistically impossible." So which is it? You want to agree with Von Thoma, but then you want to disagree with Von Thoma. The simple fact is that he proposed sending those 4 divisions and nothing less; Hitler ignored his proposal and sent 1.5 (when Von Thoma told him to forget it if he was not going to send per the proposal). Hence, Hitler made a mistake.

That is what this thread is about: "Hitler's mistakes." This is not a thread about supporting an air-tight scenario for Hitler winning the War. Indeed, I am not even arguing that Hitler's failure to take the Suez Canal dealt him a crippling blow - the order of fatal mistakes contains a number of mistakes ranking higher than this.

So, if you want to convince me that Hitler did not make a mistake here, then you have some work to do. Obviously, if you don't give a crap what I think because I have not devoted myself to the study of logistics (or for any other reason you feel sufficient) you don't have anything further to do.

However, if this is all just an exercise in letting everyone know that you have labored extensively to study the logistics of the North Africa Campaign, I suppose you could have saved yourself a lot of time and just said so. I commend your commitment to such studies and certainly respect your knowledge in your chosen area.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:21 AM   #68
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

OK,


I'll take these subjects one post at a time:
  • Bevin Alexander's credentials
  • a brief reply to your four enumerated claims in your most recent post.
  • Andrew Robert's credentials and the value of "The Storm of War" for informing the subject opf the possibilites of a German campaign against Russia through Egypt.
  • each of your claims about what I have supposedly claimed
Then maybe we can go on to other matters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Anyhow, you have made a lot of taking Brevin Alexander's credentials to task. Despite the fact I asked you to provide a criticism of him or the book in which he lays out his argument, you have failed to do so.
How can I provide a criticism of his book when I have not read it? Why should I have to go to all that effort when what he is saying is so out of whack with consensus thought among actual experts?

What I have read is what you have said about him, and what you have provided as quotes from his work. Multiple selected quotes contain factual errors. This could be explained by them being taken out of context, or it could be they are just plain wrong. Unless I read them in context I won't know.

The information I have about Bevin Alexander is what a quick internet search turns up, plus what you have quoted him as saying plus your description of his conclusions. Together, this data gives me no confidence in him. Is it reasonable for me to draw conclusions about him with such limited evidence? To me he appears to be unqualified to make the judgements you claim he makes. These judgements fly in the face of those made by people with better qualifiactions: military professionals, and career military historians. I don't think I need to spend my time reading his book and researching him in greater detail to draw a better or more valid conclusion about him. The onus is on the presenter of the dissenting opinion to show why accepted wisdom should be discarded.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead (ignoring the fact...
Hold on a minute here. You are asserting certain things are facts about which I have seen no supporting evidence, and which in some cases contradict what I believe are the best conclusions available from what I have seen. I think that this discussion has gotten to the point that any assertion of fact should be backed up with citations.

I will expect you to provide citations for each of the bolded claims below. For each claim I will provide either a citation of counter-evidence, of an explanation of how the easily availalbe evidence does not support your claim.

Since I know very little about the man, I am quite willing to believe you might know more about him than I do. However, given your mistakes of interpretation about my claims detailed later in your recent post, I am not yet willing to believe what you say about him without you showing sources for your claims. So show us the source of your knowledge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
he was a career historian...
To be a "career historian" one needs to be a historian for the vast majority of one's career. Can you give us a chronology of his career that fills in 35 years of work as an historian? I can't find any such thing, but perhaps you have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
... [he was a career historian] for the military ...
Hmm, I read on Wikipedia he served in Korea with the 5th Historical Detahcment. On his own website he says he commanded (as a Lieutenant) the detachment, and that all of the other detachments were commanded by more senior officers. Beyond this, I have seen no information about his military service. Since he doesn't mention any more, yet puts himself forward as a military expert, I think it is safe to say he had no other significant military service. (If he had more experience, he would mention it to further boost his credentials.) It should be obvious that commanding a detachment assigned to record information for future historical reference does not itself qualify one as a historian. It makes one a clerk, or a diarist, or a data collector, or possibly a chronicler. Amazon describes him as "an independent researcher and professional historical writer", which seems to be more accurate than calling him an historian. So from his own website, from the nearly unsourced wikipeda article about him, and from his description on Amazon, we have no reason to claim he is a career historian, especially one for the US miitary.

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Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and a paid consultant to the military
How do you know he was paid? On his own website he says "He was an adviser to the Rand Corporation for a recent study on future warfare and a participant in a recent war game simulation run by the Training and Doctrine Command of the U.S. Army." Neither indicates anything about payment by the military, though it seems likely that the Rand Corporation (which is not the military) probably paid him something. Each of of these gigs sound like very short one-off assignments. I have actually met some consultants to the Rand Corporation in the field of military simulations. From what I have heard from them, that doesn't make him qualified as an expert.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
as well as holding a high position at the University of Virginia)...
Again according to his own website, "He was formerly director of information and editor of the alumni magazine at the University of Virginia." Having known some Directors of Information, and having served on the Management Board of a school within a larger university, I don't think that sounds like a particulaly high position, though high enough that it gives us reason to believe that a significant part of his career was in a communications department or in publishing. Importantly, that is not an academic position. It in no way qualifies him as an historian, nor does it indicate a career as an historian. In fact it is strong evidence that, contrary to your claim, his career was in information services, publishing, or communictions, not as an historian.

Further evidence of a lack of career as an historian is his publishing record. According to Amazon, he only began publishing in the 1990s. If he had a career as a historian starting in the Korean war, one would expect to find some publications from the 60s, 70s and/or 80s. His first book comes out about when he would have reached retirement age. (According to his website, he graduated from a military college in 1949. Assuming he was approximately 22 years old at graduation, he would have been about 65 years old when his first book was published in 1992.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
you again dismiss his argument based on the fact he recently became an adjunct professor at a small university.
My point was that when the pinacle of one's brief academic career is becoming an adjunct professor at a minor college after one has retired from a non-academic career, one is not highly esteemed as an academic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I find your approach to be intellectually dishonest - ...
Well, either you have a strange concept of intellectual dishonesty, or you don't understand my approach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
you disregard the argument based on your (unfounded) opinion of Alexander's credentials.
Actually, my thought process was more along the lines of:

Well, that sounds like bunk, but just in case, I'd better see if this guy is an expert I haven't heard of, and if there are any experts who endorse his work. Google search. Find his Wikipedia page, find his website, read those, read a few pages of google links, find nothing to indicate any expertise or any traction for his ideas, find a list of his other books (mostly unrelated or equally fantastical, retain impression of bunk. I don't see what is intelectually dishonest about that. I think my outline of the data available to me indicates that, in the absence of contradictory data, my opinion of his credentials is well-founded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead, you insert your self-studies as superior to his;
No I don't. I don't claim to have independenly analyzed the military situation in North Africa to the degree that he should have to make the claims he does. Ir is not my own studies that I hold to be superior to his. Rather I remember what historians and professional soldiers have said, and I choose to believe the experts over an apparently unqualified Bevin Alexander.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
even though his work is well cited (and contains far more sources than you claim to have read).
Perhaps you can save me the time and effort of finding and reading the book and just tell us what sources he cites to support the claim that Germany had 20 armoured divisions available for shipment to Africa and with nothing else to do. Please note that a citation that shows that Germany had 20 armoured divisions is not sufficient. I agree that by October 1940, Germany had 20 armoured divisions, in name anyway, even if they were not available for deployment. It would be useful to indicate which armoured divsions were available, and what evidence there is for each one's availability for deployment to Africa.

Finally, a note about citations that will also be applicable to our future discussion of Andrew Robert's "Storm of War". The number of citations doesn't matter nearly as much as the nature of what is cited. How many of the citations are to primary sources? How many different types of primary sources are cited? How many differing viewpoints do the citations cover? Is the distribution of sources proportionate to the participants? What obvious sources have been omitted?

I am not suggesting we should use the above standards to judge the citations you and I use to support allegations of fact in this debate. Neither of us is an historian, and we have very little ready personal access to primary sources. But somebdy, like Bevin Alexander, who publishes a book that makes wild claims about how Hitler could have won the war, or how the South could have won the Civil War, ought to be held to the standard of a professional military historian or a professional military commander, and if he doesn't meet these standards, his views should be appropriately discounted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Indeed, you take your experience as a hobbyist and declare that to be superior to a career military historian and claim you can reject his argument without reading it.
No, I claim that I have seen no evidence that he is a career historian, and that he makes claims that contradict those of career historians and military professionals. My exerience as a hobbyist leads me to prefer the opinions of acknowledged experts over those of the evidently unqualified. Furthermore, as a hobbyist, I have run across statements that contradict his assertions of fact, and my understanding of strategic principles and logistics gives me further reason to question his speculation.
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Old 01-11-2013, 02:17 PM   #69
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think this gives me enough background to confidently proclaim either Bevin Alexander's claims, or your interpretation of them, to be preposterous.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead, you insert your self-studies as superior to his; even though his work is well cited (and contains far more sources than you claim to have read). Indeed, you take your experience as a hobbyist and declare that to be superior to a career military historian and claim you can reject his argument without reading it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
No I don't. I don't claim to have independenly analyzed the military situation in North Africa to the degree that he should have to make the claims he does. It is not my own studies that I hold to be superior to his.

...

Furthermore, as a hobbyist, I have run across statements that contradict his assertions of fact, and my understanding of strategic principles and logistics gives me further reason to question his speculation.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
To me he appears to be unqualified to make the judgements you claim he makes. These judgements fly in the face of those made by people with better qualifiactions: military professionals, and career military historians. I don't think I need to spend my time reading his book and researching him in greater detail to draw a better or more valid conclusion about him.


... and the Middle East was still "heavily defended," because you say so, right?

Once again, since you have taken the position that Alexander is unqualified and that you rely on sources that are qualified, I asked for you to provide a criticism of Alexander. You have not. One of the tasks a historian would do is write articles or papers taking unfounded opinions and conclusions to task. That is how accademia works. Alexander has written a dozen military history books (or so) and I would expect that if this guy is as off the wall as you claim (by looking at his "credentials"), there would have been something written about him - more specifically, about his book on Hitler's Mistakes since WWII garners about as much attention from historians than just about any other popular subject.

Yet, there is nothing written about him or his conclusions. Of course, you say his conclusions fall in the face of what "real" historians say.

Great. Well, I provided a recent work that was voted British Army Military Book of the Year 2010 that states the same conclusions. You have yet to provide any source other than ipse dixit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post

So, let's just leave Alexander aside and replace him with Andrew Roberts. I am interested in seeing how you will attack his credentials. The following excerpt is from his 2009 book "The Storm of War." To save you some time, The Storm of War was awarded British Army Military Book of the Year 2010.

The Storm of war runs 577 pages of history on the war, then includes about 30 pages of "Conclusions." The book has nearly 1,000 cites.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Finally, a note about citations that will also be applicable to our future discussion of Andrew Robert's "Storm of War". The number of citations doesn't matter nearly as much as the nature of what is cited. How many of the citations are to primary sources? How many different types of primary sources are cited? How many differing viewpoints do the citations cover? Is the distribution of sources proportionate to the participants? What obvious sources have been omitted?


Anyway, just to head you off, here is a bio on Roberts. Fair disclosure: It is copied from his website (). Make of it what you will.

Quote:
About Andrew Roberts

Dr Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He has written or edited twelve books, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world. Based in New York, he is an accomplished public speaker, and is represented by HarperCollins Speakers’ Bureau (See Speaking Engagements and Speaking Testimonials). He has recently lectured at Yale, Princeton and Stanford Universities and at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

In 2011, NBC commissioned him to commentate alongside Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera on the Royal Wedding of Prince William William to Kate Middleton, following his well-received broadcasts at the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and the wedding of Princes Charles to the Duchess of Cornwall. He also commentated for NBC on The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

His biography of Neville Chamberlain's and Winston Churchill's foreign secretary, the Earl of Halifax, entitled The Holy Fox was published in 1991, to be followed by the controversial, but no less well-received Eminent Churchillians in 1994. As well as appearing regularly on British and American television and radio, Roberts writes for The Sunday Telegraph and reviews history books and biography for that newspaper as well as The Spectator, Literary Review, Mail on Sunday and Wall Street Journal.

In 1999 he published Salisbury: Victorian Titan, the authorised biography of the Victorian prime minister the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, which won the Wolfson History Prize and the James Stern Silver Pen Award for Non-Fiction. In September 2001 Napoleon and Wellington, an investigation into the relationship between the two great generals, was published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and was the lead review in all but one of Britain's national newspapers. January 2003 saw the publication of Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership, which coincided with Roberts's four-part BBC2 history series.

Roberts holds an honorary doctorate from Westminster College, Missouri. He has two children, Henry, who was born in 1997 and Cassia, who was born in 1999. He lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan with his wife, Susan Gilchrist, who is US Managing Partner of the corporate communications firm Brunswick Group, and a Governor of the Southbank Centre.

In 2004, Dr Roberts edited What Might Have Been, a collection of twelve 'What If?' essays written by distinguished historians, including Antonia Fraser, Norman Stone, Amanda Foreman, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Conrad Black and Anne Somerset.

In 2005 Roberts published Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Gamble, which was published in America as Waterloo: The Battle for Modern Europe. The publication of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 brought him an invitation to the White House in February 2007, where he delivered the prestigious White House Lecture. His books have been translated into Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Turkish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Marathi and Spanish.

Masters and Commanders, which was published in 2008, won the Emery Reves Award of the International Churchill Society and was shortlisted for The Duke of Westminster’s Gold Medal for Military History and The British Army Military Book Award, both of Britain’s two top military history prizes. The Storm of War was published in August 2009 and reached No.2 on The Sunday Times bestseller list, and won the British Army Military Book Award for 2010.

Roberts is interested in public policy and sits on the boards or advisory councils of a number of think-tanks and pressure groups, including The Centre for Policy Studies, The European Foundation, The Centre for Social Cohesion, The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, The United Kingdom National Defence Association, The Freedom Association, the British Weights and Measures Association and The Bruges Group. He is a Director of the Harry Guggenheim Foundation in New York, a founder member of President Jose Maria Aznar's Friends of Israel Committee (alongside Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and Alejandro Toledo), and in 2010 he chaired the Hessell-Tiltman Award for Non-Fiction. He is also Vice President-elect of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

Dr Roberts is a quondam judge on the Elizabeth Longford Historical Biography Prize, he chaired the Conservative Party's Advisory Panel on the Teaching of History in Schools in 2005, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has also been elected a Fellow of the Napoleonic Institute and an Honorary Member of the International Churchill Society (UK). He is also a Trustee of the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust and of the Roberts Foundation.

In 2011 Dr Roberts was appointed to the committee of the International Friends of the London Library, the Academic Board of the Henry Jackson Society, the Review Committee of the Dan David Prize, and he became an Honorary Co-Chair of the New York Historical Society’s Chairman’s Council.
In April 2012 he was awarded the William Penn Prize (former recipients include President Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. George C. Marshall, Walt Whitman and Earl Mountbatten).
If you are expecting me to type out his bibiliography and the 800 or so books cited along with the other 200 or so cites of magazine articles and other sources, that is simply not going to happen. Sorry. So, I guess I am just have to take a leap of faith and hope you except Roberts as a "qualified historian" according to your standards.

Anyhow, as I quoted from him yesterday, he reaches the same conclusions as Alexander.

Your whole approach to my argument has been flawed from the beginning. This is your first reply once I introduced the (shocking) idea that Hitler made a mistake by not taking the Suez Canal, which (for some reason that escaped you) was offered as merely one in a list of mistakes. Yet, you respond:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Please explain why the Suez Canal was so vitally important to the Axis, and how not capturing it contributed in large measure to their ultimate defeat.
I've explained many times that this is not the standard of this thread. The idea is that Hitler could have made a superior choice, but the premise has aways been that he was destined to lose the war, anyway. Yet, here you go requiring me to prove my argument by detailiing how this choice would have allowed Hitler to actually win the war - as opposed to just accepting that he made a mistake. You are off the mark from the very beginning.

Quote:
I'm not so sure that giving Rommel the extra 2.5 armored divisions he requested would have helped nearly as much as another flotilla of submarines, a couple of wings of aircraft and a few more surface warships and cargo ships.
Again, the argument is not that this is a mistake because it was a choice that was superior to all others. I really do not understand why you persist in arguing that THIS mistake is not really a mistake because there were even better options (which of course, are options that Hitler did not choose, either). You are already conceding the mistake with this line of argument. Yet, you changed your course after this post to then argue that Hitler's choice to not commit to taking the Suez Canal was not a mistake to begin with (even though, he did expend a number of resources ... trying to take the Suez Canal, anyway).

Quote:
What battles did Rommel lose because he didn't have more armour? I'd suggest his biggest problem was the logistical difficulty of supplying an army in Egypt from a base 1500 km away at Tripoli, when all the supplies had to first cross the Mediterranean from Europe. Most of the fuel shipped past Malta to the Afrika Korps was consumed trucking it to the front. Adding another 2.5 armoured divisions would have greatly increased his supply difficulties. There is reason to doubt that the Axis had enough shipping available in theatre to transport across the Med the supplies needed by 2.5 more armoured divisions, nor the trucks to move it down the roads once it arrived in Tripoli.
We ended up going through these issues quite a bit. In essence, your argument amounts to one who uses statistics in a vacume without understanding (or at least appreciating) that changing certain elements leads to different results. As a matter of comparison, its like arguing against the point that Hitler made a mistake by not going to a war enconomy until 1943, but then using the actual 1939 - 1942 production numbers to claim it would not have made any difference.

Anyhow, if you want to argue about certain logistical issues or whatnot, be my guest. If you are still arguing that claiming Hitler's failure to take the Suez Canal is a "preposterous" argument and not supported by "real historians," I would say you (continue to) fall well short of the mark. But, then again, that is just my opinion; and whether you care enough about what I think to actually make an earnest effort at convincing me of your point is entirely your business. As of your two recent posts, I conclude you are not so interested (and that is fine by me, really).

Yet, if you are most interested in taking the opportunity to tell everyone about your war similations and meeting high profile soldiers and historians, you have certainly met the mark. Personally, I am impresssed by that and think you would have a lot of interesting things to offer regarding that experience.

Last edited by Oski; 01-11-2013 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:45 PM   #70
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I haven't been into history in years but this thread is excellent. Suggested books on this subject? Or a case of reading for specific passages etc.

Thanks.
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Old 01-11-2013, 05:49 PM   #71
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

Before I go on to draft my responses about your 4 enumerated claims in your preceding post, and the usefulness of Roberts' "Storm of War" in justifying your position, I'll just take a short time to address a couple of things about your most recent post.


This most recent post of yours comes after I made a post specifically addressing the issue of Beven Alexander's credentials, most specifically your claim that he is a "career historian" (and for the military, at that!). I provided links to evidence I suggested would tend to disprove your claims about him. I also requested that you provide links to evidence that support those claims you have made about him that I dispute. Specifically
  • that he was a career historian
  • that he was a career historian for the US military
  • that he was paid consultant for the military and by implication that his consulting makes him qualified to draw the conclusions he makes about the war in North Africa
  • that his role at the Universtiy of Virginia in any way qualifies him as an historian
In your response, you have failed to provide any evidence for any of these claims. Instead, your defence of Alexander has now shifted to the limited argument
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Alexander has written a dozen military history books (or so) and I would expect that if this guy is as off the wall as you claim (by looking at his "credentials"), there would have been something written about him - more specifically, about his book on Hitler's Mistakes since WWII garners about as much attention from historians than just about any other popular subject.


Yet, there is nothing written about him or his conclusions. Of course, you say his conclusions fall in the face of what "real" historians say.
Has it occurred to you that your inability to find something written by an historian (postive or negative) about Alexander's claims about Hitler
  • doesn't prove that nothing was written about them
  • could be because something was written about the claims, but did not mention Alexander by name, or
  • could be because Alexander is too insignficant to attract notice?
When I finish dealing with the dubious value of Roberts on this matter, I will cite a well-qualified military historian's views on the issues we are discussing, including, specifically, counterfactual history of a German victory in North Africa and its implications for the Middle Eastern theatre. I'll provide you with enough information about his credentials to show that his is a more reliable opinion on this topic than either Aleander's or Roberts'.

Should I conclude from your failure to defend your previous specific claims about Bevin Alexander and your shift to a defence of "if this guy is as off the wall as you claim ... there would have been something written about him", that you concede on the four points about him bulleted above?

The other matter I would like to address arising from your most recent post, but in this case first noticed in your preceding post, is what I think is a disurbing tendency to put words in my mouth, or failing that, to misunderstand what I say. In these two posts you make a number of claims that I have said things. I think nearly all these claims are not accurate representations of what I actually said. Generally you have failed to quote from any of my posts when you have made these claims. On occaision you have inappropriately used quotation marks. What follows is a list of your claims about what I have said, taken word-for-word from your two most recent posts. I think almost every one is an incorrect reflection of what I actually said. I challenge you to provide quotes from my posts that actually say what you have claimed (as quoted below) I say.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
... and the Middle East was still "heavily defended," because you say so, right? ...

you persist in arguing that THIS mistake is not really a mistake because there were even better options (which of course, are options that Hitler did not choose, either). ...

to then argue that Hitler's choice to not commit to taking the Suez Canal was not a mistake to begin with (even though, he did expend a number of resources ... trying to take the Suez Canal, anyway).

tell everyone about ... meeting high profile soldiers and historians
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You vehemently contest it on two grounds: 1. That the Suez Canal was not an important strategic target (especially since these "opportunities" offered by its capture are in your words "fantasy."); 2. That it was impossible (granted favorably to you - under the circumstances of the pending Operation Barbarossa) for the Axis to take the Suez Canal. ...

I suppose now you are going to claim Roberts is "advocating obviously preposterous ideas." I would suppose that any historian disagreeing with your meta-conclusions based on your studies undertaken on a micro-topic of the War would receive the same treatment.

You take some significant issues with certain facts, which to be honest, I have not found any other source to support:

1. That the Middle East was lightly defended. You claim it was well defended. I have not found any source that agrees with you. ...

Instead, you have incorrectly stated that the forces in the area were significant and that they had control over the oilfields, etc. ...

You also made the absurd claim that Vichy-French areas of the Middle East would pose significant problems for the Axis.

2. You claim that Stalin was not properly apprised of Barbarossa. ...

You claim he would have sprung into action to protect these other territories. ...

you dismiss the argument that Stalin was not even moving to protect Russia from imminent attack. ...

You also take the position that Barbarossa could not be delayed another year (or two, or more) because Stalin was planning to invade Germany himself (or at least seeking a war with Germany).

... you stated, Stalin did not want war until 1943 (with the conclusion that he was then ramping up for a war). ...

Yet, you argue Barbarossa HAD to happen just when it did. ...

3. You claim Hitler did not have the resources to equip Rommel with 4 armored divisions in November 1940. ...

Then you conclude that whatever divisions were available would have been used for Marita, anyway. ...

I find your claim that Hitler lacked the resources...

your contention that 20 armored divisions were not available to Hitler at the relative time...

now you don't seem to side with [von Thoma] as you claim such a task was "logistically impossible."
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:21 PM   #72
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Before I go on to draft my responses about your 4 enumerated claims in your preceding post, and the usefulness of Roberts' "Storm of War" in justifying your position, I'll just take a short time to address a couple of things about your most recent post.

This most recent post of yours comes after I made a post specifically addressing the issue of Beven Alexander's credentials, most specifically your claim that he is a "career historian" (and for the military, at that!). I provided links to evidence I suggested would tend to disprove your claims about him. I also requested that you provide links to evidence that support those claims you have made about him that I dispute. Specifically
I directly stated "let's leave Alexander aside. "So, why don't you do so? It so happens Roberts reaches the same conclusions, so I am merely substituting him (even though I have read Alexander's book and I believe his argument is well-supported and that he fairly balances competing points."

Yet, to each their own, if you want to change this argument to be over Brevin Alexander's credentials, I am afraid I am going to pass. I really don't know anything of him other than the fact I read a book of his that I thought was very interesting and well written. In any event, I don't find that you have offerered anything of substance to impugn his credentials.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
When I finish dealing with the dubious value of Roberts on this matter, I will cite a well-qualified military historian's views on the issues we are discussing, including, specifically, counterfactual history of a German victory in North Africa and its implications for the Middle Eastern theatre. I'll provide you with enough information about his credentials to show that his is a more reliable opinion on this topic than either Aleander's or Roberts'.
Please do so. This is important. Its about time for you to actually offer some sources or reveal these historians that you find omniscient. However, much like most of your unfulfilled promises in this thread, I am not expecting much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Should I conclude from your failure to defend your previous specific claims about Bevin Alexander and your shift to a defence of "if this guy is as off the wall as you claim ... there would have been something written about him", that you concede on the four points about him bulleted above?
Consistent whith your previous posts, I suppose you will conclude whatever you want - regardless of the facts. If you believe debating Alexander's credentials is worthwhile, I am afraid I am not really going to join you since he has laid out his argument with factual support. The work speaks for itself: you can either point out factual errors with Alexander's book, or you can explain how the conclusions he draws from the facts are incorrect. I am not really going to entertain your absurd notion that you can divine whether an argument is valid based on an author's credentials - especially when most of the equasion at issue is a matter of (more-or-less) objective record. Honestly, you are being silly.

In any event, I have offered the same argument from a different author, but you seem unwilling to properly address his conclusions, either. Instead, you seem hell-bent on playing the "who's the best historian?" card.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
The other matter I would like to address arising from your most recent post, but in this case first noticed in your preceding post, is what I think is a disurbing tendency to put words in my mouth, or failing that, to misunderstand what I say. In these two posts you make a number of claims that I have said things. I think nearly all these claims are not accurate representations of what I actually said. Generally you have failed to quote from any of my posts when you have made these claims. On occaision you have inappropriately used quotation marks. What follows is a list of your claims about what I have said, taken word-for-word from your two most recent posts. I think almost every one is an incorrect reflection of what I actually said. I challenge you to provide quotes from my posts that actually say what you have claimed (as quoted below) I say.
For these, I will number them (if that is okay with you)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski
1. ... and the Middle East was still "heavily defended," because you say so, right? ...

2. you persist in arguing that THIS mistake is not really a mistake because there were even better options (which of course, are options that Hitler did not choose, either). ...

3. to then argue that Hitler's choice to not commit to taking the Suez Canal was not a mistake to begin with (even though, he did expend a number of resources ... trying to take the Suez Canal, anyway).

4. tell everyone about ... meeting high profile soldiers and historians
1.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski
Also, from Egypt, the Axis could overrun the eastern Mediterranean up to the Turkish border as well as the Arabian peninsula, Syria Iraq and Iran. The fact of the matter is that these areas did not have much of a military presence (indeed, they were held in place by outside forces - in this case those from Great Britain)
(Your response)
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
The fact of the matter is that the Allies had much more military force in these areas than they had in the Western Desert. If any serious threat to the Canal developed, a significant portion of these forces could be redeployed to Egypt, along with forces in East Africa and India.
1.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
The notion that the Axis ever had any real chance of capturing Persian or Iraqi oil fields via a land-based campaign based on Africa is fantasy. There is an outside chance that with better logistics management and a diversion of significant forces (mostly naval and air) to the Mediterranean, Rommel might have reached the Suez Canal. Then he would have been at the end of a very long logistics trail facing a British Army based on Iraq and Palestine, reinforced from India, that had a shorter supply route. (British Australian, Free French and Indian forces had elminated pro-Axis resistance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine before Rommel's first offensive ground to a halt at the Libyan/Egyptian frontier.) Rommel would have had to get across the canal, and then also cross the Jordan rift valley, conquer the Tigris and Euprhates valley and advance well into Persia.
1.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
And British forces in India would almost certainly have been enough to prevent the Germans from gaining control of working oilfields in Iraq/Kuwait.

. . .

Turkey would be in no such pinch untl the Royal Navy was removed from the Med and the British Army was removed from Iraq.

We've already seen that there could be no credible threat by German forces to the Caucasus without expending significant forces to conquer Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and part of Persia, and then deploying still more forces to garrison the conquered territory and protect the "theat's" right flank from British forces in India. This would take many times the four divisions you talk about. The Russians would have welcomed the force ratio changes that would have resulted on the main front, and would easily have blocked an attempted advance through the Caucasus.
2.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Please explain why the Suez Canal was so vitally important to the Axis, and how not capturing it contributed in large measure to their ultimate defeat.

I'm not so sure that giving Rommel the extra 2.5 armored divisions he requested would have helped nearly as much as another flotilla of submarines, a couple of wings of aircraft and a few more surface warships and cargo ships.
3. The bolded (I am assuming the bolded is what you take issue with) is a fact that I introduced ... that despite the fact (according to you) that the Suez Canal was not a worthwhile objective for the Axis, Hitler nevertheless attempted to capture it. We know he tried to take it; my argument is that he did not commit to taking it. You argue that his failure not to commit to taking it was not a mistake because: 1) it was not a worthwhile objective; 2) he could not have taken it even if he tried. If you are not arguing this, then I am not really sure what your argument is.

4.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
For a time I was involved in serious military simulation gaming, not just commercial games, but the design and development of what the British and Commonwealth forces used to call TEWTs - Tactical Exercises Without Troops. I interacted with a number of then-serving and former military officers, including the serving logistics officer of a brigade group. I also knew personnel at D-Hist - the Canadian Forces Directorate of History, and for a time was the most frequent non-academic user of the Library of the Canadian War Museum. I knew people who served in North Africa, including my own father, and people who served in the Deutches Panzertruppen (though not DAK). Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think this gives me enough background to confidently proclaim either Bevin Alexander's claims, or your interpretation of them, to be preposterous. For now, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and presume you have been honestly taken in by him.
5. Originally Posted by Oski (I am having formatting trouble, but I hope you accept my compromise with this one - especially since it appears on just your last post):
Quote:
You vehemently contest it on two grounds: 1. That the Suez Canal was not an important strategic target (especially since these "opportunities" offered by its capture are in your words "fantasy."); 2. That it was impossible (granted favorably to you - under the circumstances of the pending Operation Barbarossa) for the Axis to take the Suez Canal. ...
That’s not your argument? By all means, please state your argument then.

6.
Quote:
I suppose now you are going to claim Roberts is "advocating obviously preposterous ideas." I would suppose that any historian disagreeing with your meta-conclusions based on your studies undertaken on a micro-topic of the War would receive the same treatment.


6. The quoted is from here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
The lack of respect was a reaction to what I thought was a reasonably informed person advocating obviously preposterous ideas.
The bolded (as clearly stated) is my supposition: You found the argument to be a “preposterous idea.” Therefore, I concluded that you would find that any historian advancing such an argument would be considered by you to be “advocating obviously preposterous ideas.” Finally, I supposed that you would find that anyone advocating a position that did not agree with your studies on logistics or desert warfare (or whatever you study) would be considered by you to be “advocating obviously preposterous ideas.

If you find that unfair, I suppose you should consider your statement that in order for me simply suggest that the Hitler make a mistake in not committing to taking the Suez Canal, that I must have only read one book on the war – that of Brevin Alexander.

7.
Quote:
You take some significant issues with certain facts, which to be honest, I have not found any other source to support:


You don’t take issues with certain facts in support of my argument? Consider me surprised. In retrospect, I must wonder what you were arguing over.

8.
Quote:
1. That the Middle East was lightly defended. You claim it was well defended. I have not found any source that agrees with you. ...
Quote:

Instead, you have incorrectly stated that the forces in the area were significant and that they had control over the oilfields, etc. ...

You also made the absurd claim that Vichy-French areas of the Middle East would pose significant problems for the Axis.
This was covered. You do not agree the Middle East was lightly defended – do you now want to clarify that you don’t claim this? If so, then I suggest you change some of your argument to go with the “new” position. Palestine was controlled by Vichy France. You stated that Palestine (among other countries) would pose a problem for German forces. If you wish to clarify that statement, please do so. If you did not intend to imply Palestine would pose such a challenge, I suggest you change your argument accordingly.

9.
Quote:
2. You claim that Stalin was not properly apprised of Barbarossa. ...


9.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
A series of espionage reports is not the same thing as the enemy actually invading a neighboring country.


We already went over this a few times. Jay claimed Stalin would not sit idly by; I disagreed stating that even with information about Barbarossa, Stalin did nothing. You downplayed this as indicating that a report is not as tangible as the actual invasion (even though he refused to believe the invasion was happening at first … when it was actually happening). Obviously you made such a point to indicate you agree that Stalin would not sit idly by (you even later stated his “long-standing policy” [which for some reason was not observed when Yugoslavia was invaded] to intervene when there was a threat in Russia sphere of influence) if Germany threatened Turkey or threatened the Middle East.

If you now claim he had credible information about Barbarossa, then I suggest you agree with my point that he did nothing even though he knew about it. That would be strange for you to reverse yourself here, but then again this would not really surprise me from you.

10.
Quote:
You claim he would have sprung into action to protect these other territories. ...


Really? Do you really need me to fish out your statement that Stalin 1) had a long-standing policy of taking action within Russia’s sphere of influence; 2) that he would involve himself if a) Turkey was threatened; b) Persia was threatened? If you did not claim this, then what were you going on about how the Middle East/Persia would be contested as long “Russia remained undefeated” and that how easy it would be for Russia to launch an attack through the Caucuses, etc.

If you did not claim that Russia would do this, then by all means clarify for us. I would suggest that you also change your argument accordingly now that Russia is no longer part of the equation (as a barrier to the Middle East and getting transitory rights from Turkey).

Anyway, here’s one:
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
It would be foolish to think that Russia would stand idly by while Germany was developing a military threat to Persa.


11.
Quote:
you dismiss the argument that Stalin was not even moving to protect Russia from imminent attack. ...


Okay, now you agree that Stalin was not expecting an imminent attack?

12.
Quote:
You also take the position that Barbarossa could not be delayed another year (or two, or more) because Stalin was planning to invade Germany himself (or at least seeking a war with Germany).
Quote:

...

you stated, Stalin did not want war until 1943 (with the conclusion that he was then ramping up for a war). ...
12.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
However, it is erroneous to say that Stalin was trying to keep Russia out of a war with Germany. Rather he wnted that war to be fought when he was ready, and he was building up faster than the Germans. Russia considered such a war inevitable. So did Germany. One of the reasons that the initial German attacks on Russia were so successful is that the Russian forces were deployed as if preparing for an offensive, not deployed on the defensive.


You claim I misconstrued this passage?

13.
Quote:
Yet, you argue Barbarossa HAD to happen just when it did. ...


13.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
It's good to know the timelines you have in mind. You're talking about decisions made in 1941. OK. In 1941 the only decisions that could have been made to allow your fanatasy to unfold would be to postpone Barbarossa for a year or two. The Germans were unwilling to do this. They believed that a Russian attack was inevitable, and might come as early as winter 41-42. Furthemore, the Russians, who already had a significant lead in tanks and aircraft, many of which were better than the German models, were outproducing Germany. Any delay would give Russia an even greater materiel advantage.


14.
Quote:
3. You claim Hitler did not have the resources to equip Rommel with 4 armored divisions in November 1940. ...



You don't claim this? Then I suppose you agree that Hitler did have the resources to equip Rommel with 4 armored divisions in November 1940?

14. anyhow:
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Such being the case, it is not reasonable to say Hitler made a mistake by failing to give Rommel four Panzer divisions. It was not a choice he could have made
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post

...




My points are
  • that there was never any realistic possibility of Rommel being given four armoured divisions at that time,
...


If the Germans had had the equipment to put together more panzer divisions, they almost certainly would have done so. There was not more equipment.
15.
Quote:
Then you conclude that whatever divisions were available would have been used for Marita, anyway. ...
15.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
Most of these divisions would return to operational status before the second batch of 10 divisions would be ready, but they were given jobs, such as occupation of France and Poland, preparation for a move to Africa, preparation for Operations Felix and Marita, guarding the Ploesti oilfields, training allied forces, and guarding the partition line in Poland and the other eastern boundaries of the Reich.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post

...

The statement that 20 armoured divisions were available certainly cannot be true after the beginning of 1941, because by January the forces for Operation Marita were being deployed to Bulgaria.
16.
Quote:
I find your claim that Hitler lacked the resources...


See response to 14.

15.
Quote:
your contention that 20 armored divisions were not available to Hitler at the relative time...


So, are you now agreeing that 20 armoured divisions were available?

16.
Quote:
now you don't seem to side with [von Thoma] as you claim such a task was "logistically impossible."


My argument to take the Suez Canal is based on von Thoma plan (as first identified and proposed by Jodl and Raeder). You wrote a lengthy passage explaining how this came about in July 1940. I believe you are arguing that this plan was logistically impossible. Are you not arguing that the plan was logistically impossible?

What a pointless exercise. I can't take you seriously anymore.

Last edited by Oski; 01-11-2013 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:34 PM   #73
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swalker View Post
I haven't been into history in years but this thread is excellent. Suggested books on this subject?
It depends on what you want to get out of a book.

Which subject in particular? Hitler's mistakes? I'm not sure there is any good book on that broad topic. There is a lot of speculation by amateurs but very little of probitive value.

Specific mistakes are addressed most meaningfully by credible professional historians writing about particular subjects. Military analysis is best done by professional military officers, but usually not ones who were themselves connected to the actions they analyse. Beware of military conclusions drawn by biographers and writers of popular history books who are not themselves professional military historians. OTOH, writers of popular histories are likely to be more talented at presenting a readable general description of the course of events, and biographers are best qualified to expose the nature of individuals involved in events. Memoirs are useful for getting a key person's viewpoint but are usually so limited in scope of perception, and often so self-serving, as to be nearly useless at drawing conclusions about broader events or the actions of others.

When reading, be aware that there are controversies and disagreements about the interpretation of historical events. Try to learn what these controversies are and what the various positions are.

A few books about the war in North Africa, to consider, but by no means a definitive list:

"War without Hate", John Bierman and Colin Smith - a good popular history giving a general overview of the desert war, though focussed on the Second Battle of Alamein. (The US edition was originally entitled "The Battle of Alamein".) Bierman and Smith are reporters, not historians. They are more about storytelling than serious history.

"Rommel's Desert War", Martin Kitchen - a more scholarly approach by an historian, though Kitchen is not strictly a military historian.

"Panzer Army Africa", and "War in the Desert", J Lucas.

"The Desert Generals" by Correlli Barnett - a seminal revisionist history intended to deflate the Montgomery myth and properly recognize the contributions of Auchinleck, E. Dorman-Smith and, to a lesser extent, Wavell and O'Connner. Get the second edition, which contains a bit more information on the Montgomery-Auchinleck controversy, and comments incorporating evidence from Ultra.

Nigel Hamilton's 3 volume biography of Montgomery, but especially volume 1: "Monty: The making of a General".

"The Rommel Papers", B.H. Liddell Hart ed.

"The Tiger Kills: The Story of the Indian Diviions in the North African Campaign", W G. Hingston & G. R. Stevens, A rare old work dealing with less reported-on formations.


Books of more general scope that have information particularly useful to an understanding of the North African campaign:

"British Inteligence in the Second World War", F. H. Hinsley.

"Hitler's War Directives", H.R. Trevor-Roper

"Patton and Rommel" D. Showalter.

"Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton", Martin van Creveld

"Strategy: The Indirect Approach" third revised edition, "The Other Side of the Hill", and "The Tanks - the History of the Royal Tank Regiment and its Predecessors", all by B. H. Liddell Hart.


A useful article:

"Rommel's Supply Problem" in Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, 119, Martin van Creveld


A couple of books about the writing and usefulness of history, that might inform ones' selection and approach to reading:

"The Battle for History - Re-Fighting World War Two", John Keegan. Hard to find. Especially interesting is the first section, on historical controversies of WW II.

"In Defence of History" by Richard Evans. An argument for the continued relevence of History in the face of post-modern opposition to its practice. A significant portion of Evans work in general is concerned with the proper practice of history.


For purposes of understanding the merits and demerits of a thread like this one, do some reading on the internet about the value and limitations of counterfactual history.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:52 AM   #74
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

To deal with the first of your four enumerated points...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You take some significant issues with certain facts, which to be honest, I have not found any other source to support:

1. That the Middle East was lightly defended. You claim it was well defended.
I never said it was well defended. Nor did I say it wasn't lightly defended. I mentioned specific force levels, and, in some cases the identity of those forces, at particular dates. Terms like "lightly defended" and "well defended" are near- meaningless. They are relative terms without, in this case, any referent. I did not take a postion on whter they were lightly or heavily held, nor am I going to. I will say what the forces present or available were. Slapping arbitrary labels of "light" or "well" doesn't interest me.

You have this habit of referring to things like force levels, supply states and opportunities as if they remained contant through time and space. Things change over time. British force levels west of Suez in June 1939 were less than in June 1940, which were were less than in July 1940 , which were less than in October 1940, which were less than in November 1940, ... . What von Thoma might think is possible given conditions extant in November 1940 might not be possible given the conditions extant in February 1941, or July 1942.

For that reason, when I mention things like force levels, I try to tie them to the state at a particular date or during a particular span of time. And because "light" or "heavy" or "well defended" have no accepted common defnition, but rather are terms relative to other states at different times, or otehr forces at the same time, I try to avoid using such ambiguous terms.

So no, I never said that the Middle East was well-defended. I said
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
[last date mentioned, in previous paragrpah, April 1941]
The fact of the matter is that the Allies had much more military force in [the eastern Mediterranean up to the Turkish border as well as the Arabian peninsula, Syria Iraq and Iran] than they had in the Western Desert. If any serious threat to the Canal developed, a significant portion of these forces could be redeployed to Egypt, along with forces in East Africa and India.
The units and formations available to C-in-C Middle East Command outside Egypt in April-June 1941 included:

In Palestine/Transjordan:
  • 1st Cavalry Division
  • 6th and 8th Infantry Divisions (based in Palestine, these divisions rarely fought as whole formations, but were broken into component brigades, and sometimes into individual units for garrison duties.)
  • The Arab Legion (equivalent to a weak brigade)
IraqForce:
  • 10th Indian Division
  • 1 Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment
  • Iraq Levies (about 1/2 weak Brigade)
  • 1 RAF Armoured Car Co.
In East Africa:
  • 4th Indian Division (which had been withdrawn from Libya in December 1940, during O'Conner's offensive, and returned to Libya in late spring, 1941)
  • 5th Indian Division
  • Free French Brigade D'Orient (later reinforced and transferred to the operation against Vichy Syria/Lebanon)
  • 1st South African division
  • 11th African Division
  • 12th African Division
In June and July, added to these forces for the invasion of Vichy Syria and Lebanon were:
  • 7th Australian division
  • Australian I Corps troops (equivalent to about 1 brigade group)
  • 17th Indian Infantry Brigade
The primary source for these force assignments is
"The Mediterranean and the Middle East", I.S.O Playfair et al., i.e. the official history. You can see information on Wikipedia about various parts of the above at
Middle East Command in September 1939
IraqForce
East Africa 1941 Offensive
Syria-Lebanon Campaign
In some cases, especially the first of these, you have to follow along links from these starting points to see what happened to units over time.

In total that is 10 whole divisions and other pieces roughly equivalent to another division. Several of these formations went on to serve in Egypt and Libya. That's way more than the British had in the Western Desert at any point in 1940 or 1941. Does 11 divisions, plus whatever was in the Western Desert or Lybia mean the Middle East was "lightly defended" or "well defended"? IDK. You tell me. I am not the one making vague qualitative judgements. You are, or the not very-good writers whose works you refer to are.

While my statement quoted above referred specifically to the state in the first half of 1941, the statement regarding strengh of British forces in Egypt relative to British forces in the rest of Middle East Command is equally true from 1939 through the first quarter of 1942. It may even apply later than that, but I'd have to check to be sure.

I also said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
At the time the German assessment of a requirement for 4 armoured divisions was made in November 1940, the British had 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Divisions (supported by 7th Royal Tank Regiment) in the front line, and 6th Australian Division and 2nd New Zealand Division (less two brigades) in reserve. ... In addition to these forces there were numerous smaller forces scattered around Egypt, and the equivalent of at least six more divisions under C-in-C Middle East.
The sources for the above include
"The Desert Generals", 2nd edition, Correlli Barnett, pg 29,
and of course, "The Mediterranean and the Middle East".
The other six divisions available to C-in-C Middle East included 1st Cavalry, 6th and 8th Infantry in Palestine, and
  • 5th Indian Division in Sudan
  • Two Brigades in Kenya
  • 1.5 Brigade equivalents in British Somaliland.
Again, the primary source is "The Mediterranean and the Middle East" but you can see references on Wikipedia at
Middle East Command in September 1939
East Africa, British Order of Battle in 1940
5th Indian Division in East Africa

Not only could C-in-C Mid-east Command, move these forces from outside Egypt to the Western Desert, he did. Off the top of my head, at least 1st Cavalry Division (renamed and refitted as 10th Armoured Division), 4th Indian Division, 1st South African Division and 6th Infantry Division (renamed as 70th Infantry Division) were all transferred at one time to Egypt or Libya from elsewhere in Middle East Command.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I have not found any source that agrees with you.
Then either you haven't looked hard enough, or, more likely, you mistinterpreted what you read. I never said the Middle East was well-defended. I talked about numbers of formations. You just presumed that when an author makes a reference to things like "the campaigns were not large", or "laughably limited resources", that the numbers of formations I mentioned were larger than what the author was referring to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
To the contrary, I have already provided an account that states, "the campaigns were not large (referring to the mid-1941 British operations in the Middle East) they were conducted without much fanfare and each with laughably limited resources ... but they were crucial for Britain's survival" Lyman, Robert, "First Victory: Britain's Forgotten Struggle in the Middle East, 1941," p. 2. I have read many other works that state the same thing - that the Allied military presence in the Middle East was scant, at best.
Sure, but those quotes don't mean what you mistakenly thought they meant. I've just given you the actual forces involved, from the official history, and other sources. These force listing are entirely consistent with what I first wrote, and also entirely consistent with the authors you misinterpreted. Those writers agree with me. You just misunderstood either me, or them. Since I mentioned specific numbers of formations, it seems more likely you misunderstood them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead, you have incorrectly stated that the forces in the area were significant
Where did I use that word? And where was I incorrect about the number of formations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
and that they had control over the oilfields, etc.
Read the terms of the treatry the British forced on Iraq before granting independence, and then try to tell me the British didn't have control of the oilfields. They lost control for a few months during the Iraqi uprising, but regained it in 1941. You can read more about the Anglo-Iraq war, the treaty, and control of the Iraqi oilfields on Wikipedia.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
The truth is the opposite, Britain's access to these oilfields was due to political and economic means at that time; it was not consolidated with military force until August 1941.
The treaty provided for the maintenance of British bases on Iraqi soil, and for the entry of British troops into Iraq at any time upon the request of the British authorities. The bases were there to protect British access to the oilfields and to facilitate communiction between India and Eqypt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Not to mention, the political leanings in those areas were mixed - if not pro-Axis.
Which is one of the reasons the British needed to maintain bases and military access once they had granted Iraqi independence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You also made the absurd claim that Vichy-French areas of the Middle East would pose significant problems for the Axis.
I don't think that is what I said, and certainly isn't what I meant. Please quote from my post to show what you are referring to.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:23 PM   #75
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Re: Hitler's Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You take some significant issues with certain facts, which to be honest, I have not found any other source to support:
...
2. You claim that Stalin was not properly apprised of Barbarossa.
No, I don't claim anything about whether Stalin was properly apprised of Barbarossa or not.
What I did was to compare Stalin's reaction to alleged possession of accurate intelligence to America's reaction to alleged posession of correct intelligence reports about Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
All the sources I have read claim that 1) he was indeed given quite accurate information from reliable sources; but 2) he chose to ignore it.
Well then, either all your sources are poor, or you are misreading them or misrepresenting them. A fairer description would be that among the masses of intelligence reports the Russians had regarding German intentions and capabilities were accurate reports about Barbarossa. In reviewing the sum of available information, (much of it incorrect or incomplete), the Soviets failed to draw the correct conclusions.

Your wording makes it sound like the preponderance of information the Soviets had was that Barbarossa would happen in June 1941, that Stalin believed this, and deliberately chose to do nothing. I'd be interested to know of any book that claims to have evidence to support such a position.

There is a very similar situation in the North Africa campaign. The British knew from SigInt that Rommel was arriving in 1941, and what forces he was getting. Despite this, they believed he would not attack until mid-April at the earliest. As a result, when he did attack at the end of March, the British did not have adequate forces deployed to be able to resist him in Cyrenaica. There were two possible reasons for this belief that he would not attack until mid-April or May. The obvious one is that they learned that Rommel was under direct orders not to attack until April 20th. The other is that in estimating his capabilities, they figured his troops would not be ready for an attack for a couple of months after they landed. So despite having accurate reports about his forces and orders, they still managed to miscalculate his intent and capabilities.[See Hinsley, and Barnett]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
This goes to your point that Stalin would not have stood idle while the Axis was moving on the Middle East (as well as reaching a diplomatic resolution with Turkey). You claim he would have sprung into action to protect these other territories.
Once again you mis-state what I claim. I never said that Stalin would act to protect these other territories. When faced with a Geman attack towards his own territory, he would act to protect his own territory by seizing strategic territory adjacent to his own.

How do I know he would do this? Because this is what he actually did. Twice. When Germany invaded Poland from three sides, Russia invaded Poland from the fourth side, thereby creating a buffer zone between the new Geman border and Soviet home territory. Two months after Gemany's attack eastward in 1941, the Soviet Union invaded Persia with three whole armies, in cooperation with a smaller British force invading from the south. You can read about the Anglo-Russian invasion of Persia on Wikipedia.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
To do so, you dismiss the argument that Stalin was not even moving to protect Russia from imminent attack.
I dismiss it because it is a silly argumnet. The vast majority of Soviet forces west of the Urals were positioned in the new territories acquired since 1939. [Source: "Atlas of World War II", John Keegan, pg. 42] Most historians tend to interpret this in one of two ways:
  1. The forces were concentrated forward, as if for an attack, rather than deployed for a defence in depth. Whether this is because an attack was actually intended, or merely due to incompetence is unclear.
  2. The Soviets preferred to fight on recently conquered land, and avoid fighing on home soil. This resulted in them being concentrated forward.
However, at the same time the Soviets were forming four new armies in two miltary districts well back from the front (too far back to be considred part of a defence in depth).[ibid.]

This is not consistent with "not even moving to protect Russia from imminent attack".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You have not sourced any of your arguments regarding this.
Neither have you. Now I have. Your turn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
You also take the position that Barbarossa could not be delayed another year (or two, or more) because Stalin was planning to invade Germany himself (or at least seeking a war with Germany). You have not supported this proposition.
I don't think I said that I thought Stalin was going to attack. I think I said war between Germany and Russia was inevitable, and that the Soviet forces were in a forward position as if about to atttack. I think there is plenty of evidence that both sides thougth a war was inevitable, but that neither side was certain who would attack first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Instead, you stated, Stalin did not want war until 1943
Please quote from a post where I said that Stalin did not want war until 1943. I think what I said was that Stalin preferred the inevitable war to occur at a time of his choosing. I don't remember saying Stalin thought he would be ready in 1943 - that is your take. (I should keep a running count of the times you mis-construe my arguments. We must be into the teens at least.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
(with the conclusion that he was then ramping up for a war).
Do you deny he was ramping up for war? Have a look at Soviet military production statistics and military induction rates. Oh, maybe he was ramping up the military for peaceful purposes, like helping bring in the harvest in eastern Poland (helpfully fertilized with the blood of otherwise non-agricultural Polish officers) and building up infrastructure in the Baltic states, and introducing Russian dancing to Bessarabia.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I think this is misleading - Stalin stated Russia would not be ready for war until at least 1943 - that is quite different that actively seeking out a war at that time. Furthermore, Stalin was (of course) still working on getting his military in shape, but it was not with the same urgency as we saw once Barbarossa was underway.
Stalin's actual intentions and capabilities are not what drives German decisions regarding the timing of Barabarossa. To the extent that they matter at all, it is German estimates (or fears) of Stalin's intentions and capabilities that affect German timing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Again, your conclusions are not supported by the facts. In no case, was Hitler under any apprehension that he would be missing a window of opportunity to attack Russia (meaning, he was worried that Russia would shortly be able to position herself to withstand his attack) if he did not do so in 1941.
That is a positon that is impossible to prove, so you shouldn't take it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Indeed, Hitler's original plan was not to seek a wide-spread war until 1943 or later - he fell into the war because he was reckless.
So Hitler didn't plan to attack until 1943, yet he attacked in 1941. And Stalin didn't think he'd be ready until 1943...

If Germany could attack two years earlier than they orignally thought, why not Russia?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
In any event, most historians (that I have read) agree that the attack on Russia (if it ever was to be prudent under any circumstances) happened too early.
Are you sure that is what they agree? Perhaps a closer reading would tell you that they agree that Germany was under-prepared for an attack in 1941, and that it would have taken more time to become prepared.

Speculating on whether Germany could have won the war if they had waited to attack one or two years later is a mug's game. There are too many unknowns, and too many interlated factors.

The Torch landing took place in 1942, and something like them could have taken place even if the Germans had kicked the British out of Egypt by then. But then, if Germany hadn't attacked Russia in 1941, perhaps the US wouldn't have agreed to make the European theatre their priority once brought into the war byJapan, so Torch would have been delayed. But if Germany hadn't attacked Russia in 1941, perhaps Japan would have delayed its attacks on US and British Pacific posessions to coincide with a German spring 1942 offensive, so there would be no reason for the US to direct land forces to the Pacific, so Torch would still go ahead maybe just a couple of months later.

The only chance Gemany had of winning the war was knocking out Russia before the US became a factor. Germany could not keep Japan from attacking the US for long, so Germany had no hope of winning by waiting several years to attack Russia. Their only real chance of fighting a war and winning was to attack Russia in 1941 and win then or in the renewed offensive the next year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
Yet, you argue Barbarossa HAD to happen just when it did.
Nope. It could have been delayed two years and Germany would have lost - becasue the Soviets would be readier, and the US would be involved sooner relative to the German attack date. It could have been delayed one year, probably with the same results for the same reasons. Or there could have been no attack on Russia at all. Germany could have just sat and waited for the inevitable attack on the Reich, whether from the Western Allies or from Russia. All of those are theoretical possibilities, but none of them is a realistic possibility. The the whole point of WW II for the Germans was to conquer Russia. There's a little book called "Mein Kampf". Perhaps it will give you a clue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oski View Post
I don't agree with that notion (to say the least). Of course, pinning Barbarossa down as you do, solves your argument that Hitler simply did not have the resources to commit to North Africa and (potentially) the Middle East. That is a convenient "out" for you, but really, it is neither here nor there as this scenario is a precondition to Barbarossa.
It is not an out. It is reality. Hitler had decided to go to war with Russia and to do it in 1941. Diverting force from the attack would only weaken it. Delaying the attack wasn't an option on the table.

If you want to argue that Hitler's actual mistake was to attack Russia in 1941 rather than later - go ahead. I won't get any more involved in that debate, because it is not winnable by either side (though I think the proponderance of counterfactual argument on this issue lies with an inevitable German defeat.)

My position is that Germany failing to take the Suez Canal did not make any material difference regarding the Axis's ultimate defeat, and therefore the canals was not an important strategic objective for them, and therefore the denial of a third and fourth armoured division to Rommel was not one of Hitler's mistakes.

As subsidiary arguments I suggest that even if Rommel had been given two additional armoured divisions in February 1941 or a bit later (not possible if Barbarossa goes ahead in 1941), it is far from certain that he could have taken the canal, without a significant investment of other forces to address the problem of the supply lines, and that it was impossible for Germany to have sent Rommel to Africa with 4 armoured divisions in November 1940.

Last edited by DoTheMath; 01-12-2013 at 06:30 PM.
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