D-Day November 1942

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T. A. Gardner
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D-Day November 1942

Post by T. A. Gardner » 26 Aug 2008 00:36

In this "What-if" I propose that the US decides to invade France in November 1942 instead of North Africa. The same fleet coming from the US is used to transport an initial landing force of 3 infantry and 1 armored divisions to France. In addition, the Commonwealth provides two infantry (one Canadian) divisions and a tank brigade out of England.
The landing is made against the French coast at Quiberon / Quiberon bay in Brittany. The first wave ashore is the Canadian division and two of the US divisions supported by appropriate units. A simultaneous landing by a two battalion force of commandos / rangers is made to take Belle Ile off shore. The equivalent of a parachute regiment is dropped initially as well.

The Germans have at most one or possibly two Bodenstande 2nd class divisions in the immediate area for defense. These are poor quality units that have had minimal training, have over age and marginally fit personnel in them, and are ill equipped materially. This virtually ensures the Allies get ashore with low casualties.

Quiberon Bay gives a large sheltered anchorage in relatively shallow water making U-boat operations difficult or impossible. The town of Quiberon gives the Allies a useful, if small, initial port that is very defensible being on a nearly insular pennsula.

The Germans are also faced with the following problems:

The Afrika Korps is reeling in defeat from Alamein and retreating into Tunisia. At the same time, the 6th Army is surrounded (or nearly so) at Stalingrad and in desperate straights. There are just 5 panzer divisions in France all of which are undergoing reorganization (6, 7 and, 10) after heavy losses or are newly organized and in training (26 and 27).
The Stalingrad airlift is diverting the Luftwaffe to the East.

So, the German military in France is now faced with an invasion into the edge of Vichy France which is unoccupied. They have few useful mobile units immediately available to counter the landing and none close to it. The few units in the immediate area are virtually immobile and poorly equipped even to mount a defense. The situation in the East and North Africa call for reinforcements there too. The only ones available were in France for the most part and now facing an Allied invasion.
The Luftwaffe is ill equipped to be of much support immediately.

Against this the Allies land by D+21 between 9 and 11 divisions two of which are armored. They initially do not go on the offensive but instead make limited advances to secure a good beachhead. Belle Ile and other sites are selected and airfields built to accomidate fighters and later attack aircraft. Belle Ile is also used as a port facility with small craft ferrying troops and supplies across to the mainland as a secure base; the Germans have no way to take this island back at their disposal.

The ports of St. Nazaire and Lorient are within easy striking distance of the Allies. In addition, Quiberon bay is an excellent anchorage and makes a useful amphibious base to bring supplies over the beach in calm waters.

All the Allies have to do is maintain a credible defense for a couple of months while they build up their forces for a breakout. The Germans are really no better off than in 1944 and, the Allies face no Tigers or Panthers but rather Pz IIIs and IVs tactically.

If Vichy France caputulates to the Allies (likely, very likely) the Germans are also going to be forced to invade and put down their assisting the Allies. This also creates a problem for the Axis in North Africa.

I think the Allies missed a real opportunity in doing something like this historically.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Aug 2008 03:39

There's a couple of minor problems with that...

First of all - Stalingrad DIDN'T divert THAT much in the way of carrying capacity to Stalingrad. Remember - they WERE about to historically start sir-bridging to Tunisia! And when you look at the aircraft lost there, combat as well as transport...nearly ALL the Gigants for instance - it actually had a FAR greater and longer-lasting impact that the losses on the Stalingrad airlift.

The reason why THIS is important ...is despite El Alamein being a "shattering" defeat for Rommel, particularly attriting his armour almost to NOTHING - he was retreating FAST into Tunisia...and the british were threatening to - as usual for the desert war - outstrip their supply lines. A HUGE amount of materiel and transport was mustered for El Alamein and the break-forward into Libya...BUT if Rommel had been able to turn the reinforcements and new equipment he DID get at the end of the year, that founght in Tunisia....on just ONE enemy...the desert war could VERY easily AGAIN have taken another swing back across Cyrenaica!!!

Remember - one of the vital aspects to the Allies breaking the air bridge to Tunisia was ALLIED airpower....including shore-based fighter aircraft JUST behind BOTH the US and British front lines. No US forces in Rommel's rear...no USAAF aircraft...then its left to the Desert Air Force and RAF forces on Malta to try and break the air bridge...

Second - I really don't think Churchill would have bought the idea of an invasion in 1942. Actually - historically he resisted EVERY pressure to!!! Certainly - John Colville records that UNTIL El Alamein he had gradually lost almost ALL confidence in the British ARMY - but the fighting spirit and capability of the squaddies, and the capabilities of its generals, after SO many defeats in the Desert, the loss of Crete, the fall of Singapore etc. SOMETHING is going to have to put a hell of a rocket up his jacksie to motivate him to supporting the idea of an invasion in 1942.

As for the defending Germans having no Tigers...VERY soon they would simply make the choice between sending them to Rommel....or sending them to Brittany... :wink: Somehow I don't think Erwin would win THAT argument!!!

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Robert Rojas
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RE: D-Day November 1942.

Post by Robert Rojas » 26 Aug 2008 04:14

Greetings to both brother T.A. Gardner and the community as a whole. Well T.A.G., in respect to your introductory posting of Tuesday - August 26, 2008 - 12:36am, it is the opinion of old Uncle Bob that your well thought out scenario is not so oddly reminiscent of OPERATION SLEDGEHAMMER which was initially proposed by the United States of America for the invasion of France in year 1942. There were subsequent reservations and objections made by Great Britain and OPERATION SLEDGEHAMMER was shelved. The compromise was the proposed American invasion of North Africa and that is how Operation Torch came into fruition. I, for one, like the mechanics of your proposed variation of this combined American / Canadian landing in Brittany. Old yours truly can only hope that your assertion about the condition of the Luftwaffe in France is correct. The strength and operational status of Luftwaffe is a real question for me and I have my doubts if the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Corps will be able to maintain continuous air superiority over Brittany. It's just some friendly, if not sobering, food for thought. Well, that's my initial two cents worth on this hypothetical topic of interest - for now anyway. As always, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in the Grand Canyon State of Arizona.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|

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Tim Smith
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by Tim Smith » 26 Aug 2008 07:08

Launching a cross-Channel amphibious invasion in November is not a good idea. Weather will be a major hazard for the invasion force. Landing craft could be sunk in choppy seas. Accuracy of supporting naval gunfire will be reduced as the ships roll in the swells. Winter storms could prevent unloading of supplies. Cloud cover could severely restrict Allied bombing of German forces.

Due to the unpreparedness of the German defence, the Allies will definitely make it ashore and establish a beachhead, although it would still be bloody as massed troops on a beach make a superb target for MG34's. But breaking out of the beachhead afterwards is another matter entirely.

Plus the US Eighth Air Force is still small and weak, so the RAF would have to take on most of the air support role. The RAF did not perform particularly well over Dieppe in June 1942, and lost more than twice as many aircraft as the Germans. Brittany is a bit further away from England than Normandy, so the short-legged Spitfires are going to use up a lot of fuel getting there, which means less patrol time over the beachhead. Also the RAF are still using mostly Spitfire V's in November 1942 - the slow Spitfire V is outclassed by the Fw 190A and the Bf 109G, so the RAF is going to take heavy losses. The Typhoon is still plagued by reliability problems at this stage, which will hamper the fighter-bombers.

If the Germans deploy all the troops and airpower that they sent to Tunisia historically, plus those that were in France anyway at this time, the Allies will be in for a very tough fight. The Tiger will be a serious problem for the Allied tankers.

The invasion will almost certainly fail, and the British will have to carry out another Dunkirk-style evacuation.

The only plus point for the Allies is that Rommel will only get Italian reinforcements, so the British 8th Army should still be able to fight its way through to Tripoli.

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The_Enigma
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by The_Enigma » 26 Aug 2008 16:06

If the Brits were forced to comit to a cross channel invasion in place of Torch, they would be able to provide allot more then a single division and armoured brigade. In the country at that time, or part of First Army heading for Africa, in various different strengths etc was the below:

1st Infantry Division
2nd (London) Infantry Division
3rd Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division
6th Armoured Division
9th Armoured Division (although disbanded in 1944, may have been able to make an appearance at this time)
11th Armoured Division
15th (Scottish) Infantry Division
38th (Welsh) Infantry Division (Changed to a reinforcement formation later on during the war)
42nd Armoured Division (as 9th Arm)
43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division
46th (North Midland) Infantry Division
48th (South Midland) Infantry Division (reduced to reinforcement formation later in the war)
49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Divison
53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division
55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division
59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division
61st Infantry Division
76th Infantry Division
77th Infantry Division
78th Infantry Division (The Battleaxe Division)

In total: 4 Armoured Divisions, 19 infantry divisions and a hell load of indy infantry and armoured brigade groups in various conditions which could or partially be used - not to mention there was more than one Canadian division in the country as well.

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sallyg
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by sallyg » 26 Aug 2008 20:59

You don't say how large an initial holding you foresee. The area does include beaches but also includes far more rocky headlands and bluffs unsuited for assault.

A large proportion of the beaches appear to be backed by towns, which smells of Dieppe to me.

The peninsula of Quiberon appears to be a wonderful place for a seige, not so great for a breakout across the isthmus.

Google Earth shows significant WWII era fortifications, but no indication when they were actually constructed, later than you window, I suppose.

This is an interesting thread, I want to think on it, but my initial reaction was "Guadancanal" with a lot more for the Germans to call on than the Japanese had at their disposal.

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Tim Smith
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by Tim Smith » 26 Aug 2008 21:27

The_Enigma wrote:If the Brits were forced to comit to a cross channel invasion in place of Torch, they would be able to provide allot more then a single division and armoured brigade. In the country at that time, or part of First Army heading for Africa, in various different strengths etc was the below:

In total: 4 Armoured Divisions, 19 infantry divisions and a hell load of indy infantry and armoured brigade groups in various conditions which could or partially be used - not to mention there was more than one Canadian division in the country as well.
Just because the British had 23 divisions in your list, doesn't mean that they were all fully combat-ready and equipped with the latest weapons. Some of them will be training up new recruits, some will be second-line garrison divisions for coastal defence and internal security duties.

For example, the armoured division equipped with the Covenanter tank isn't fit to go anywhere - that tank wasn't fit for combat and could only be used for training.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Aug 2008 21:48

Regarding Quiberon not being overly suitable...that could be debateable :wink: It would have to be a "Sealion" type undertaking - infantry backed by VERY slight armour taking a port and THEN disembarking armour and transport...

BUT lets not forget that debarking large amounts of infatry was A/ practical there, and B/ not unknown :wink: AND C/ from eminently unsuitable craft - rowingboats!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_France_(1795)

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The_Enigma
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by The_Enigma » 26 Aug 2008 21:52

Tim,
You will notice i did say they were not all at full strength and i did note that some were changed to reserve/training divisions later in the war. But the fact remains there was a hell of allot more the British could contribute to such a what if, if forced to rather then a single division and brigade.
internal security duties
What internal security! 8O

As for the Conventor, only the 9th Arm was fully equipped with them. With over 5000 Crusaders built and American Shermans and Stuarts (not to mention surplus Grants and Lee's) arriving am sure they would have been able to replace them if they thought they were not combat worthy.
Last edited by The_Enigma on 27 Aug 2008 00:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Tim Smith
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by Tim Smith » 26 Aug 2008 23:00

The_Enigma wrote:Tim,
internal security duties
What internal security! 8O
worthy.
Guarding military installations, headquarters, ammunition dumps, airfields, road checkpoints, POW camps, guarding against the IRA in Northern Ireland. Stuff like that.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by phylo_roadking » 26 Aug 2008 23:11

By 1942 the Home Guard was doing about 85% of ALL that. POW camps were guarded by them - (the only german killed by the Home Guard was a KM prisoner trying to break INTO Grizedale camp in the Lake District!!!) - the vast majority of industrial installations, factories, rail junctions, marshalling yards, docks etc....and a suprisingly large number of coastal fixed defences were gradually being handed over to local Home Guard units providing crews for coastal defence batteries and being trained by the RA and RN before handing over.

In Northern Ireland the IRA during the war was almost moribund. Northern Command was almost totally cut off from the rest of the organisation in the Irish Free State by the very secure border - secured NOT by the the British Army, but by the RUC, the ""B"-Specials", and the Ulster Home Guard of the Royal Ulster Special Constabulary (the only legal way to give the Home Guard guns here under the 1921 Settlement was to make them ALL Special Constables!!!)

BUT...and most importantly - in 1942 the responsibility for the defence of Northern Ireland had been turned OFFICIALLY over to the the U.S. Army! Allowing the final withdrawal of the last of the forces gathered earlier in Ulster to be sent to North Africa during the year.

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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by The_Enigma » 27 Aug 2008 00:35

One should also note that while quite a few of the divisions above were disbanded or turned into training formations they also turned over a large chunk of there personel to 21st AG. Essentially that list is where the vast majoirty of the personnel came for 1st, 2nd and 8th Armies.

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by T. A. Gardner » 27 Aug 2008 04:45

The reason I chose just three Commonwealth divisions along with 4 US ones was shipping space. This is about the limit for the Allies to put ashore given the landing craft and suitable freighters available at the time. They could also drop at least one airborne division in addition to these units.
The second wave would have another 4 divisions (2 British 2 US) in it.

This should be sufficent to hold the beachhead until the Allies could establish themselves securely ashore and build up for a breakout.

The Germans had just a single infantry division covering the coast from Lorient to St. Naziare, the 333rd. Troops in France were at a low point in November due to heavy draws to reinforce the fronts in Russia and Africa. The Luftwaffe has little in France beyond JG 26 with about 150 fighters mixed roughly 2 to 1 with Fw 190 and Me 109s. Fleigerführer Atlantik has just a handful of aircraft operational as most were stripped to support the Stalingrad airlift. The same is true for He 111 units in the West. These went east to support the airlift too.

Quiberon in 1942 isn't particularly fortified. Virtually all of the fortifications were built following Dieppe in 1943 and early 44. In 1942 the Germans were not particularly expecting the Allies to try a massive amphibious assault into France.

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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by sallyg » 27 Aug 2008 05:03

Do you foresee holding the peninsula only while a buildup occurs or a larger stretch of coastline?

EDIT oh, and Belle Isle too.

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T. A. Gardner
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Re: D-Day November 1942

Post by T. A. Gardner » 27 Aug 2008 05:14

I would expect the Allies to push inland by as much as a few miles at the most to grab defensible ground and give themselves a deep enough pocket to allow for a build up to the rear. As the Germans will take at least a week to get parity on the ground at first all the Allies would face is a weak holding force. The situation would be much like it was at Anzio. The Allies needn't go for a breakout; they just need to create a defensible pocket ashore.

If Vichy France has gone over to the Allies this will drain a number of divisions and create an even bigger problem for the Germans. Now, they have to take all of Southern France and occupy it too. The US might push one or two divisions into North Africa in such a case as well. They could also fly in aircraft to threaten Rommel.

The whole scenario really does create a major dilemma for the Germans. The Soviets are beginning their winter offensives and succeeding. Rommel is retreating into Tunisa and needs serious reinforcement to hold. The Allies have landed in France and are too strong to be immediately thrown back into the sea. German U-boat bases in France are threatened and likely will have to be abandoned in the face of the massive increase in Allied naval presence in the Bay of Biscay. This in turn has a big effect on the Battle of the Atlantic.

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