No Tunisgrad

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 12 Oct 2011 18:05

Kingfish wrote:
Carl,

How much of a factor were these limitations to the air force supporting 8th army?

IIRC, they began the Alamein offensive with a significant superiority in numbers, and while not all could shift West, they (and their supporting echelons) were at least starting out in the theater.

Wouldn't operating from the Benghazi area reduce the Axis air threat from Sardinia/Sicily (of course there still is Crete/Greece)?
Its not clear. Last night I took another look & proved once again my thin collection has holes in the numbers. I have seen analysis of the 8th Armys logistics effort to support its advance west across Cyrinacia & Tripilotania. They had the same problem as the Axis with automotive transport being entirely inadaquate and the same for ports other than Tripoli. If I recall correctly Monty was dependant on the port of Tripoli being restored to adaquate capacity before he could execute offensive operations in Tunisia. That suggests the RAF had a delay in establishing air bases forward as the Axis withdrew west. Maybe tomorrow when I get back to my desk I can pull together bits from several sources & identify something concrete one way or the other.

I did notice that through much of 1942 the combined Axis air strength on Sicilly & Sardinia fluctuated from some 650 operational aircraft in july 1942 to close to 1000 post Torch. A part of that must have been deployed to the Tunis/Bizerte airfields through December, but I cant find any numbers yet. Overall Axis air strength in the Med for the latter half of 1942 seems to have been somewhere between 1500 & 2000 combat worthy air craft in the entire Med. Alfred Price 'Luftwaffe' gives the combined operational Luftwaffe air strength in the Med for 3 July 1943 as 1,280.
BDV wrote: Of course Tunisia cannot be abandoned without a fight, however, a small diversionary force, to buy time for a "Scortched Earth" supplemented by AngloAmerican bomber activity is probably the optimum that the German-Italian forces should try. ...
In November a scratch force of airborne and mechanized units halted the Allied advance guards in the hills west of Tunis & Bizerte. If the Axis leave it at that they ensure the all weather airfields the French built in tunisia are denied to any Allied aircraft, thus aiding a evacuation from Tripoli. Once that is accomplished the Tunis bridgehead could be withdrawn as well. There would be a fair size loss, but the net would be far less than the 250,000+ Axis soldiers lost in the historical Tunisian campaign, and the vast quantity of supply thrown down that stratigic dead end. This middle choice has some merit as well. It still cuts the Axis loss considerablly and delays the Allies a few months. Later in the Spring of 1943 the Allies face a much stronger Axis defense if Operations Brimstone or Husky are to be executed.

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 13 Oct 2011 17:24

Coming back after a short break -
If I recall correctly Monty was dependant on the port of Tripoli being restored to adaquate capacity before he could execute offensive operations in Tunisia. That suggests the RAF had a delay in establishing air bases forward as the Axis withdrew west.
Carl, if you're interpreting a lack of supply as being down to a lack of RAF air transport capacity - I'm not sure this is safe; the British Army didn't rely on air transport to the frontline anywhere close to the degree that the DAK did.

The Desert Air Force however did have a history of redeploying forward behind the frontline to provide fighter and tactical bomber capability; they weren't moving forward anything like the amount of kit and men the Luftwaffe chose to do when they carved out a new airstrip - all that was done was to walk the length of an identified flat piece of hardpack throwing rocks into the back of a lorry, dig the dugouts for tent bases along the flightline, and wait for the first aircraft to arrive 8O A few months ago I came across a beautiful sequence of pics in an old Time reference showing what the Desert Air Force did to open a new airstrip...I wish I'd saved the URL now :(
Overall Axis air strength in the Med for the latter half of 1942 seems to have been somewhere between 1500 & 2000 combat worthy air craft in the entire Med. Alfred Price 'Luftwaffe' gives the combined operational Luftwaffe air strength in the Med for 3 July 1943 as 1,280.
Just as an aside, IIRC Hootn gives figures for LW aircraft, operational and otherwise, actually IN North Africa during the period....it plummeted to a low of ~100 of all types being looked after by something like 11,500 LW personnel! :lol: Dozens of damaged aircraft, and aircraft U/S for lack of spares or under maintenance were lost time after time as the LW was forced to withdraw further and further West.
In November a scratch force of airborne and mechanized units halted the Allied advance guards in the hills west of Tunis & Bizerte. If the Axis leave it at that they ensure the all weather airfields the French built in tunisia are denied to any Allied aircraft, thus aiding a evacuation from Tripoli.
Carl, I noted back up the thread on a couple of occasions that if this force doesn't exist (As per OP - no reinforcements to Tunisia) the Allies are free to move forward.
There would be a fair size loss, but the net would be far less than the 250,000+ Axis soldiers lost in the historical Tunisian campaign, and the vast quantity of supply thrown down that stratigic dead end. This middle choice has some merit as well. It still cuts the Axis loss considerablly and delays the Allies a few months.
Carl - would they seek to hold them - or just destroy them??? I can't see them attempting to hold that size of a bridgehead...given that to do so they STILL need to take control of Tunis/Bizerte, in doing so force Barre into the hills etc., etc...
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Oct 2011 00:54

phylo_roadking wrote:
Carl, if you're interpreting a lack of supply as being down to a lack of RAF air transport capacity - I'm not sure this is safe; the British Army didn't rely on air transport to the frontline anywhere close to the degree that the DAK did.

The Desert Air Force however did have a history of redeploying forward behind the frontline to provide fighter and tactical bomber capability; they weren't moving forward anything like the amount of kit and men the Luftwaffe chose to do when they carved out a new airstrip - all that was done was to walk the length of an identified flat piece of hardpack throwing rocks into the back of a lorry, dig the dugouts for tent bases along the flightline, and wait for the first aircraft to arrive 8O A few months ago I came across a beautiful sequence of pics in an old Time reference showing what the Desert Air Force did to open a new airstrip...I wish I'd saved the URL now :(.
No, none of that. I was considering the ability to place enough bombs on the Tripoli port and cargo ships to destroy substantially more men & material exiting Africa than they destroyed coming in during the previous quarter. That is approx 20% of cargo embarked July-Sept 1942. I'd think if anything more than 60% of the Axis soldiers in Africa are evacuated then they can claim some sucess. That requires more than some hasty landing strips to prevent the withdrawl of 405 or more of the German & Italian soldiers via Triploi.
Overall Axis air strength in the Med for the latter half of 1942 seems to have been somewhere between 1500 & 2000 combat worthy air craft in the entire Med. Alfred Price 'Luftwaffe' gives the combined operational Luftwaffe air strength in the Med for 3 July 1943 as 1,280.
phylo_roadking wrote:Just as an aside, IIRC Hootn gives figures for LW aircraft, operational and otherwise, actually IN North Africa during the period....it plummeted to a low of ~100 of all types being looked after by something like 11,500 LW personnel! :lol: Dozens of damaged aircraft, and aircraft U/S for lack of spares or under maintenance were lost time after time as the LW was forced to withdraw further and further West.
Yes, for most of 1942 the Axis AF in Lybia was 'weak'. At best out numberes 2-1 early in the year and something like 5-1 or more at the start of the last Alamien battle. Kesselring had a considerable AF at his disposal in Italy/Scilly/Sardinia through 1942, but supply transport in Africa prevented deploying much more than 300 operational aircraft forward to support the ground battle.
In November a scratch force of airborne and mechanized units halted the Allied advance guards in the hills west of Tunis & Bizerte. If the Axis leave it at that they ensure the all weather airfields the French built in tunisia are denied to any Allied aircraft, thus aiding a evacuation from Tripoli.
phylo_roadking wrote:Carl, I noted back up the thread on a couple of occasions that if this force doesn't exist (As per OP - no reinforcements to Tunisia) the Allies are free to move forward. .
They can move forward on the ground and fly a few squadrons into the French held airfields, but deploying several hundred bombers, the fuel, parts, ground crew, and thousands of tons of bombs in the face of Axis AF opposition from the established Sicillian/Sardinian air bases will require time. There were next to no paved roads between Algeria & Tunis, and the narrow gauge railroad was barely functioning. Historically the Allied advance guards ran right up to the gates of Bizerte & Tunis in November 1942. Then it took them three months to improve the roads and move the airbases forward to Tunisia so they could have air superiority.
There would be a fair size loss, but the net would be far less than the 250,000+ Axis soldiers lost in the historical Tunisian campaign, and the vast quantity of supply thrown down that stratigic dead end. This middle choice has some merit as well. It still cuts the Axis loss considerablly and delays the Allies a few months.
Carl - would they seek to hold them - or just destroy them??? I can't see them attempting to hold that size of a bridgehead...given that to do so they STILL need to take control of Tunis/Bizerte, in doing so force Barre into the hills etc., etc...[/quote]

I'd not predict what Kesselring might do in this variant, or what Hitler might endorse. I'd make a brief delaying action sufficient to destroy the ports ad airfields, then when forced to - depart with what loot might be in hand.

Picking through Mason's 'The United States Air Force' it appears the B17s deployed to Algeria in November & December (four USAF size wings) were able to mount less that a dozen raids in those two months on Tunis, Bizerte, & Tripoli. Neither that nor the RAF heavy & medium bomber raids from the east seem to have substantially reduced traffic in & out of those three ports. The US air strength in Algeria does not appear to have started daily raids until January, and Mason states the USAAF did not start raiding Italy itself until Febuary.

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Oct 2011 00:59

...nor the RAF heavy & medium bomber raids from the east seem to have substantially reduced traffic in & out of those three ports
I'll have to check in Richards because, while I can take onboard what you're saying about American preparations (tho' the ability to disembark cargo from Allied shipping as far forward as Tunis might have ameliorated that...not withstanding the risks, which the British were prepared to accept at various times at Tobruk, Benghazi etc...) - the RAF must have been bombing somewhere...
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 11:12

The question is rather if they were hitting somewhere. Reading ULTRA reports on the effect of bombing by the 120 or so Wellingtons in late 1941 does not give one the impression that they were a great weapon of destruction. Very good nuisance value though.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Oct 2011 11:57

I've seen refrences to the RAAF & USAAF bombers based in Egypt & Cyrinacia bombing Tripoli in November/December 1942 as well. Unfortunatly those have zero information about the results. What techniques were the Wellingtons using? Previously this year I've read up on air attacks on other ports from 1940 through 1943. Low altitude attacks using torpedos, mines, and skip bombing techniques can be very effective. An example are the Axis attacks on Bougie 11-12 November 1942. Three cargo ships sunk by bombs & a AA cruiser by a air dropped mine. Conversely Mason states medium altitude daylight raids by B26 bombers on Tripoli in late 1942 were unproductive, and the bombers badly damaged by the dense Axis air defense. From a variety of sources it seems the German night air attacks on UK ports in 1940 closed those ports rarely & briefly. Similarly the numerous 1942-43 medium & heavy bomber attacks by the USAAF on the port of Rabaul seldom interfered with port operations. Those were largely high & medium altitude attacks. Yet in the Channel & Western approaches in 1940 German bombers using dive & skip bombing techniques had a reasonable level of sucess sinking cargo ships, and so did the USAAF in 1943 after adopting low altitude skip bombing.

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 12:04

Tripoli was attacked quite often during 1941 by Wellingtons from Egypt. Results can be found in ULTRA intercepts. Bit painstaking, but interesting.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 12:25

phylo_roadking wrote:FLAX dealt the German air transport fleet a blow from which it never recovered-and ended Heeresgruppe Afrikds last chance for any significant resupply of its rapidly dwindling supply of fuel[/i][/b].
http://www.africaaxisallied.com/blog/58 ... -may-1943/[/quote]

Sorry, but that's BS. The blow had been dealt at Stalingrad, and this, while serious, was exacerbating and accelerating, but not causing the decline of the fleet.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 17 Oct 2011 12:53

I think that in context the reference means the LW's in-theatre transport capacity - not the LW's all-over numbers.
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 13:06

A) I don't intepret it that way
B) even if that was what was meant, it would be meaningless. The LW transport fleet was capable of reacting quickly to urgent demands, while it still had the planes. E.g. A major effort during TYPHOON was followed by CRUSADER, was followed by Demjansk. Those were the same planes, to a large extent.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 17 Oct 2011 13:22

The LW transport fleet was capable of reacting quickly to urgent demands, while it still had the planes.
I'm not sure if this is the case; for MERKUR, for example - Ju52s from all over the LW were first ferried to Germany for servicing to bring them up to a common standard for the operation, and then ferried on to Greece. This stage of the process took two weeks or so.

And because of this, Hooton notes that only a dozen or so Ju52s were available to the Wehrmacht on the border in Poland on the first day of BARBAROSSA.

It's also worth trying to get a handle on exactly what was lost during various major operations; at Stalingrad, for instance, as well as the Ju52s, a mixed bag of gathered converted He111s and other trnasport types were scraped together - and subsequently lost.
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 13:31

Sure, but the point is that 'in-theatre' is not really a meaningful concept.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 17 Oct 2011 13:46

Sure, but the point is that 'in-theatre' is not really a meaningful concept.
Of course it is; the LW was hardly flying Ju52 round trips from Germany or elsewhere in the Greater Reich to Tunisia...it had a given number of Ju52s and other dedicated transports based in Sicily, Southern Italy and Crete; in April 1943, for instance, it had KGrzb V800 under KGzbV Stab Neapel, and I.,III, and IV./KGzbV 1, KGrzbV 106 and KGrzbV 600 under KGzbV Stab Sizilien...and the Ju52 (See) Staffel....all flying Ju52s with Luftflotte 2 in Italy, along with II./KGzbV 323 flying Me 323s, and Lufttransportstaffel 290 flying a mixed bag of Ju 90s and Ju290s.
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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by Urmel » 17 Oct 2011 13:52

Well no it isn't.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: No Tunisgrad

Post by phylo_roadking » 17 Oct 2011 14:03

Yes, units could of course be shifted from one front to another, by being transferred from one command to another - but the point is that they were fitted into a command chart in one place when they were transferred...and fitted into another at the far end, into another chain of command. And at given "snapshot" times and major events - such as April 1943 and the evacuation from Tunisia - we can very specifically see what units were where under what organisational chart.
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