Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
pugsville
Member
Posts: 906
Joined: 17 Aug 2011 04:40

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by pugsville » 18 Jul 2021 13:23

thought better on it,

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2623
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 18 Jul 2021 14:22

I found this in Road to Victory: Winston S. Churchill 1941-45 by Martin Gilbert, p.150:
The fate of Russia remained high on the British agenda. At the Chequers meeting of July 18 [1942], it was also agreed that ‘if things went very badly on the Russian southern flank’, serious consideration would have to be given to asking the Americans to send forces to the Levant-Caspian front. It was ‘to be remembered’, however, as the minutes recorded, that the transportation of a single division to the Levant-Caspian front would involve the same amount of shipping as for three divisions for ‘Bolero’.
Source is: CAB79/56 - COS Committee No. 75 (operations) of 1942, 10.30 p.m., 18 July 1942.

Gilbert continues in the next paragraph:
On July 19 General Marshall and Admiral King began their discussions with the American military representatives in London…Three days later, on July 22, in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street, the three Americans argued before Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff in favour of a bridgehead to be held on the Cherbourg peninsula.
Confronted by the total unanimity of the British War Cabinet against ‘Sledgehammer’:
P.151, …two days later, Marshall reported to Brooke that the Americans had accepted the British position. ‘Sledgehammer’ was dead…’Torch’, was alive.
A couple of things suggest themselves to me:

1. The Marshall paper has to be seen in the context of this debate and as an attempt by Marshall to use the undoubted shipping difficulties which would have followed from an attempt to establish US forces in the Levant to encourage FDR to support American ‘Sledgehammer’ arguments.
2. That, if there had been a need for additional ground forces in the Levant-Caspian area, there would have been another enormous tussle between the US and the British over the best use of American forces. Having spent all their capital on persuading the Americans to lead an invasion of NW Africa it is, at the least, very doubtful whether the British would have persuaded them to abandon NW Africa and send significant forces into the Middle East to support (as Marshall regularly argued) the British Empire’s hold on the area.

I’ll see if I can dig out any more information from that period on contingency planning for the Levant.

Regards

Tom

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 18 Jul 2021 22:11

Tom from Cornwall wrote:1. The Marshall paper has to be seen in the context of this debate and as an attempt by Marshall to use the undoubted shipping difficulties which would have followed from an attempt to establish US forces in the Levant to encourage FDR to support American ‘Sledgehammer’ arguments.
While I agree, it's not relevant to our particular ATL discussion. SU's fall nixes Sledgehammer completely and totally, delays invasion of Europe "indefinitely."
Tom from Cornwall wrote:Having spent all their capital on persuading the Americans to lead an invasion of NW Africa it is, at the least, very doubtful whether the British would have persuaded them to abandon NW Africa and send significant forces into the Middle East to support (as Marshall regularly argued) the British Empire’s hold on the area.
Depending on what Spain is doing, there may be no need for British convincing. US was very worried about Spain's ability to impact Torch - Ike's worry about this is why we didn't land farther east and probably why we lost the race for Tunis. If Spain is in the war, it's likely the US sees no point to Torch.

Given SU's fall, what other option besides fighting in the MidEast or leaving the European war altogether? Invading Spain is less viable than Sledgehammer; Norway is not viable unless perhaps with air support via all Allied carriers and therefore abandoning Japan.

IMO it's defend the MidEast or seek terms with Germany. I'm not certain it wouldn't have been the latter, given shipping difficulties, American unwillingness to defend the Empire, and Japan.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Aber
Member
Posts: 928
Joined: 05 Jan 2010 21:43

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by Aber » 19 Jul 2021 08:22

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
18 Jul 2021 22:11

Depending on what Spain is doing, there may be no need for British convincing. US was very worried about Spain's ability to impact Torch - Ike's worry about this is why we didn't land farther east and probably why we lost the race for Tunis. If Spain is in the war, it's likely the US sees no point to Torch.
Azores, Canaries, Morocco...

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2623
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 19 Jul 2021 16:58

Aber wrote:
19 Jul 2021 08:22
Azores, Canaries, Morocco...
Indeed - and in British planning circles: Operations "PUMA", "THRUSTER, "SPRINGBOARD", etc.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
18 Jul 2021 22:11
If Spain is in the war, it's likely the US sees no point to Torch.
If Spain is in the war, the western Allies would see even more value in GYMNAST / TORCH. See FDR's list of the threats that such an operation would counter in the instructions he gave Hopkins, Marshall and King for their visit to the UK in Jul 42:

http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box4/a44u07.html
Benefits of TORCH.JPG
FDR clearly wants a US contribution to Middle East defence and I can easily see Marshall and King taking TORCH to be the best way of contributing forces to ground combat in 1942 without getting too heavily involved in supporting the British empire's position in the Middle East.

I also noted that FDR says that a Russian collapse is "unthinkable":
Russian resistance.JPG
But then goes on to argue how best to continue the war if it happens. The worst he concedes is that "Round-Up" might not be possible in 1943!

Regards

Tom
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5313
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by glenn239 » 19 Jul 2021 17:23

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
17 Jul 2021 03:39
This conversation is unmanageable if we disagree about which ATL we are in. I'm perfectly happy to concede everything is more difficult if you don't accept my priors.
Under your hypothesis the Eastern Front has been eliminated as a factor in the war for Germany beyond an occupation army of secondary importance, and Turkey has been pressured to join the Central Powers. Under these conditions, neither Egypt nor Iran are important to Allied war strategy. The former because the British are unlikely to retain Egypt against the expanded Axis attack, the latter because the total elimination of the Red Army takes away the strategic rationale for an Allied theatre in Iran.

The situation you outline strikes me for the Allies as follows. With no Red Army to assist in 1942, there is no need for Bolero or Roundup and Marshall and King will ease off on the historical "Germany First" strategy. The US will send considerable assistance to the British in order to shore up their position, but in terms of offensive options it will be all 8th Air Force. The Japanese will be under heavier pressure.

When the Allies switch to the offensive, the target list looks to be Norway, Iberia, or North Africa. None will happen until at least 1943.
My latest ATL specifies that German Uboat production increases over OTL from late-40 or early '41. It follows logically from the conditions in my older ATL's but isn't something I've made explicit until recently - i.e. it would be a new introduction into our ongoing discussion in this thread. I won't ask you to incorporate it at this point but it has been in the background of my thinking. More German Uboats means more shipping losses up 3Q '43, which makes supporting a large MidEast Allied presence absolutely infeasible, IMO.
Could be, but increased U-boat production won't be a decisive factor.

Do we agree that Germany getting the Turkish railway intact implies Allied loss of Suez and the Levant, setting up the 3Q '43 battle for Iraq/Iran along the lines I've specified?
Yes, Germany forcing Turkey into the war on the side of the Axis would be a catastrophe for the British position in Egypt and the Middle East.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Jul 2021 18:03

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
19 Jul 2021 16:58
Aber wrote:
19 Jul 2021 08:22
Azores, Canaries, Morocco...
Indeed - and in British planning circles: Operations "PUMA", "THRUSTER, "SPRINGBOARD", etc.
...because invading the Canaries isn't TORCH. When I say Allies wouldn't/couldn't have done Torch, part of what I mean is they have to invade the Canaries (and hold the MidEast).
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
18 Jul 2021 22:11
If Spain is in the war, it's likely the US sees no point to Torch.
If Spain is in the war, the western Allies would see even more value in GYMNAST / TORCH. See FDR's list of the threats that such an operation would counter in the instructions he gave Hopkins, Marshall and King for their visit to the UK in Jul 42:
You've misread the document. German occupation of North Africa is listed as an "effect" of losing the MidEast (item #6 under paragraph 8, describing effects of losing the MidEast).

Because losing North Africa would follow from losing the MidEast, FDR is confirming that MidEast defense would be his #1 priority, which largely confirms my view that US would not have done Torch in '42 in this ATL (because they can't do Torch AND defend the MidEast, if they can defend at all).
Tom from Cornwall wrote: I also noted that FDR says that a Russian collapse is "unthinkable":
But then goes on to argue how best to continue the war if it happens.
I appreciate your enthusiasm for sharing primary documents with us. While they are essential, their worst possible use is to credit a contemporary foreigner's perception of what was likely or not in another country. We know FAR more about the SU in WW2 than FDR did in 1942.

For example in the same document, FDR states, "Defeat of Germany means defeat of Japan, probably without firing a shot or losing a life." He didn't live long enough to know incredibly wrong that was.

Theme #1 of any FDR bio is an almost insane level of optimism and self confidence. His appraisals of SU and Japan reflect those traits; in certain moments his more sober judgment would come through (see signature).
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 19 Jul 2021 18:12, edited 1 time in total.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Jul 2021 18:09

glenn239 wrote:Yes, Germany forcing Turkey into the war on the side of the Axis would be a catastrophe for the British position in Egypt and the Middle East.
Thank you for clarifying the issues.

I agree that a resistant Turkey makes the picture significantly more complicated. Allies face the same shipping constraint getting to Turkey, though, so a battle in Western Anatolia presents problems for them. As a resistant Turkey blows rail lines - including mountain tunnels - Axis logistics will be very problematic as well.
glenn239 wrote:Under these conditions, neither Egypt nor Iran are important to Allied war strategy.
Under my conditions, are you saying Allies abandon all of Iran or just the north? I.e. they still try to hold Khuzestan and Basra/Abadan, right?
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2623
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 19 Jul 2021 19:57

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Jul 2021 18:03
You've misread the document. German occupation of North Africa is listed as an "effect" of losing the MidEast (item #6 under paragraph 8, describing effects of losing the MidEast).

Because losing North Africa would follow from losing the MidEast, FDR is confirming that MidEast defense would be his #1 priority, which largely confirms my view that US would not have done Torch in '42 in this ATL (because they can't do Torch AND defend the MidEast, if they can defend at all).
Maybe, but maybe I just looked on to the next document - FDR's memo of 24 Jul 42 when he made his point even clearer to his wavering Lieutenants:
FDR support for TORCH - 24 Jul 42.JPG
Regards

Tom
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5313
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by glenn239 » 19 Jul 2021 20:01

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Jul 2021 18:09
Under my conditions, are you saying Allies abandon all of Iran or just the north? I.e. they still try to hold Khuzestan and Basra/Abadan, right?
The British would not abandon their section of Iran because they're always worried about India. But, from the US perspective, Iran makes sense as a supply highway to the Red Army. No Red Army, then no reason for US troops in Iran and no reason to suppose the British can hold Basrah. The US will want to take the initiative somewhere in 1942, I suppose. Since it won't be against Germany in your scenario, that leaves the Pacific.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Jul 2021 21:15

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
19 Jul 2021 19:57
Maybe, but maybe I just looked on to the next document - FDR's memo of 24 Jul 42 when he made his point even clearer to his wavering Lieutenants:
Tom that's totally different analysis. The document we were discussing addresses FDR's preference if Russia collapsed and the MidEast were invaded, the 7/24 memo is plainly not addressed to that contingency.

This is obvious from FDR stating "if we leave out consideration of the Persian Gulf" - i.e. if we assume that we aren't actively defending the MidEast.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 19 Jul 2021 21:26, edited 1 time in total.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 2623
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 19 Jul 2021 21:16

glenn239 wrote:
19 Jul 2021 20:01
Since it won't be against Germany in your scenario, that leaves the Pacific.
Glenn,

If you look at the FDR documents I posted up there is a statement by the President which flatly contradicts this suggestion. FDR saw Germany as the principal component of the Axis and the one that needed to be confronted immediately - or at least as soon as shipping and training of troops allowed.

Regards

Tom

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Jul 2021 21:25

glenn239 wrote:
19 Jul 2021 20:01
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Jul 2021 18:09
Under my conditions, are you saying Allies abandon all of Iran or just the north? I.e. they still try to hold Khuzestan and Basra/Abadan, right?
The British would not abandon their section of Iran because they're always worried about India. But, from the US perspective, Iran makes sense as a supply highway to the Red Army. No Red Army, then no reason for US troops in Iran and no reason to suppose the British can hold Basrah. The US will want to take the initiative somewhere in 1942, I suppose. Since it won't be against Germany in your scenario, that leaves the Pacific.
Without American help, Britain will certainly lose Basra. Let's assume (as is probably true) that it would take considerable time for Germany to cross eastern Iran in any meaningful strength to threaten India.

What then? US sits back and watches while Germany swallows up the MidEast and North Africa, satisfying itself with taking some Pacific isles?

In the longer-term - say by early '44 - Germany will be able to use the Persian Gulf itself for communications along a line of advance, on the shore, towards India. Britain, having lost Abadan and probably an army in its MidEast defeat, is struggling to ship fuel to India to keep the lights on and defend Imphal.

Meanwhile, massively increased LW production and German fuel resources have nixed the Combined Bomber Offensive. Germany is building invasion forces that tie down either the entire British army (then who defends India?) and probably requires some US reinforcement as well.

What I'm getting at is, why does the US - even the UK - stay in the European war? What's the feasible to victory?
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 19 Jul 2021 21:45, edited 1 time in total.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Member
Posts: 2602
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Jul 2021 21:37

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
19 Jul 2021 21:16
glenn239 wrote:
19 Jul 2021 20:01
Since it won't be against Germany in your scenario, that leaves the Pacific.
Glenn,
If you look at the FDR documents I posted up there is a statement by the President which flatly contradicts this suggestion. FDR saw Germany as the principal component of the Axis and the one that needed to be confronted immediately - or at least as soon as shipping and training of troops allowed.
Regards
Tom
It's a relevant point, Tom, but not dispositive. Were FDR's preferences all that mattered there'd have been B-17's over Berlin in 1940. In this ATL, where the European war has seen only defeat since America joined, it can't be assumed that FDR perceives the political room to maintain Europe First.

And that'd be wise, IMO. Were ATL FDR truly planning to get to Berlin, the only feasible path would involve freeing up the ~half of American resources sent to the Pacific OTL. As freeing them up via peace with Japan is an absolute non-starter, Japan now must be defeated before Germany. Plus beating Japan has at least the specter of reviving a rump Soviet ally against Germany.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

glenn239
Member
Posts: 5313
Joined: 29 Apr 2005 01:20
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Could a German invasion of Turkey succeed?

Post by glenn239 » 19 Jul 2021 22:00

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
19 Jul 2021 21:16
Glenn,

If you look at the FDR documents I posted up there is a statement by the President which flatly contradicts this suggestion. FDR saw Germany as the principal component of the Axis and the one that needed to be confronted immediately - or at least as soon as shipping and training of troops allowed.

Regards

Tom
Yep, I see it, and you could be right. If the Allies decided to make their primar effort in Europe with Russia defeated, it would probably be something like TORCH.

Return to “What if”