jwsleser wrote: ↑
14 Nov 2018 16:10
Finally able to drop back in. Many Veterans’ Day weekend activities and I read through all 48 pages of the earlier Malta invasion thread. Of the latter, some good discussion mixed with a lot of bad information.
I feel your pain.
Italian special operation forces...[snip interesting and detailed information, thank you Jeff.]
Reggimento Fanti dell'aria. Two battalion of 500 each. The regiment executed a large scale mass-tactical jump in 1938 which included seizing an airfield and air-landing a full infantry regiment and artillery (some artillery was parachuted). In all, nearly 5,000 troops were flown-in or dropped. A smaller exercise was repeated in 1939. The 1940 plan had the regiment landing near Zurrico (Zurrieq) and either seizing Hal Far airfield or, failing that, defending the Nigret hills.
British dispositions to oppose such a move placed the Queen's Own 2d RWK defending the airfields against parachute assault, with one company each at Ta' Qali, Luqa, and Hal Far, and a reserve company at Saint George's Barracks providing an anti-parachute reserve for Pembroke Sector. The 2d KOMR were stationed just to the northwest in Zebbag with responsibility for the west coast from including Tal Virtu. The Zurrieq area eventually became part of the responsibility of 3d KOMR, but it is unclear if they were operational by the end of August. So an assault by 1,000 paratroopers would have been a major problem for the British. Did the RA have sufficient airlift to move the whole regiment to Malta in one lift?
My point in listing the three capabilities above is to demonstrate...[snip further good information.]
I still have issues on why the obstacles are seen as a problem. They are certainly not as extensive and complex as what the R.E. had previously dealt with. More importantly, obstacles are only good if they are covered by fire. The lack of prepared infantry positions (pill boxes do have their limitations) including firing pits and trenches that are needed to create an integrated defense means the the defenders are almost as vulnerable to artillery fires as the attackers. The rocky terrain also means that the garrison would be exposed to the R.A. and their bombs. The small size of the garrison meant that they can’t take a large number of losses. As I previously stated, this will be an attrition fight where skill will play a small role. If the Italians have a strong suit, it is their artillery. They can get it ashore and they know how to use it.
My specific point regarding the barbed wire obstacle was related to the insane notion the Italians would attempt a direct assault into St. Paul's or Mellieha bays. Those two specifically were the best prepared positions in the northern half of the island, designed as part of the evolving beach defense strategy. I cannot see how the Italians could have carried out such a mad scheme, whether or not they had a strong corps of night assault, sailing fishing vessel-delivered ninja warriors (sorry, the whole idea of a sneak attack by fishing boat - not your idea BTW - made be giggle, it reminds me of certain old arguments regarding flying in Japanese SLNF to seize the mountain passes in Hawaii
Landing artillery on Gozo and Comino is part of all the plans. Here the shorter ranges of most of the main artillery types is a negative, but to establish and maintain the northern part is good to go.
Yep. Yet another problem for the British not resolvable in 1940 and still problematic in 1942. Comino is probably the better Italian choice, given it places most of Pembroke and Melleiha sectors within 5-8 kilometers, but Gozo is mostly over 8 kilometers.
Use of Valletta by the R.N. Certainly damaged ships could use the harbor in am emergency, but does anyone believe the R.N. would operate out of that port during an invasion? When and how do they use Valletta? At night? What happens when the Italians mine the approaches or take other actions (see X MAS above)?
Yeah, except possibly for MTB Valletta would be a non-starter for the RN in this scenario.
Fort Campbell. As an infantry strong point it might be okay, but its coastal guns are woefully vulnerable. I would be surprised if any of those guns are operational by the time the landings begin. Between the 5-day prep in the plan and the actions on the day of the invasion, they are likely to be out of action. Most of the defenses are of the type that can’t protect coastal and field artillery against air or naval bombardment, especially in the north.
Curiously enough that is the general supposition, but German experience in Normandy proved to be the opposite. They found that while the open-pit form of coast artillery position could be suppressed it was very hard for the Allies to cause critical damage or casualties to them. OTOH, enclosed gun positions such as Marcouf proved very problematic to short rounds grazing into them and causing havoc when they exploded inside the gun chamber. In this situation too, until the Italians can field a viable dive bomber force, air attack would be very hit or miss.
So what did the 5-day prep phase and actions on D-Day envision? Was there to be a sustained naval bombardment of the coast defense positions?
The R.N. The Italian plan states that the sailing time for the British to Malta is a minimum of 36 hours. The sailing time for the invasion ships is 11 hours. 5 day invasion prep. The challenge for the R.N. is when to sail. Once they leave port, they are burning fuel. 36 hours is high speed, a lot of fuel. When they sail and how much flex the Italians build into their plan are factors. The prep works against the UK. If some success in the first few days (especially in the north), it might ultimately cause the UK to decide to cut their losses and not sortie.
Staying on station is just as important as getting there. The Japanese sortie that resulted in the Battle of Salvo Island didn’t stop the invasion. To say the Italians would crack if they lose a naval battle is betting on hope as a method. The R.N. can’t stay in the area. As has been previously noted, the R.N. was acutely aware of their ship shortage and Malta was seen as a loss cause in 1940.
Yep, an RN attempt to disrupt the invasion by the Fleet would probably be a non-starter. At best they might risk a cruiser-destroyer force...but even that could be dicey. The problem is that unlike the British incursions into Italian waters at this time, the Italians have the initiative and can decide on time and place.
Airfields to support the operations. The airfields on Pantelleria and A.S. were to be used as well as on Sicilia. 300 bombers and 200 fighters in the plan.
To me, the oddest element of British strategy for Malta in the 1935-1940 time frame is that they greatly expanded the airfields on Malta...and then failed to station any reasonable air strength there. I understand why they did not, but the building of the airfields seems almost an invitation to the Italians to fly in at their leisure. I mean, it isn't like the British were not aware of the Italian paratroop and airlift exercises. So why make it easier for the Italians to execute such an attack on Malta?
As previously stated, nothing presented here will prove or disprove whether a 1940 invasion could succeed. What I hope to have done is show that an invasino wouldn’t have been a half-cocked and thrown together effort by the Italians as perceived by many. They had been working on the Malta invasion since 1935 and had developed and tested many of the capabilities needed to execute such an invasion. I don't see a Mexican stand-off. If the Italians are serious, they can take the island. It won't be pretty, it won't be neat, but it is well within their capabilities if they are determined to do it.
All true...but then, as already mentioned, how does that affect Italian operations against Greece and in North Africa?