Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Sep 2020 19:55

Hi Guys,

This thread has not once considered Turkey's position. It simply assumes that it could be coopted by one side or the other.

Until Turkey's position and ambitions are established and some justification given for it to jump one way or the other, the entire thread is operating in a vacuum.

"What-ifs" only have value if they are grounded in a plausible reality. This has yet to be established here.

What did Turkey want?

What are the Axis and Allies offering for its alliance?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by maltesefalcon » 05 Sep 2020 21:16

Sid Guttridge wrote:
05 Sep 2020 19:55
Hi Guys,

This thread has not once considered Turkey's position.



Cheers,

Sid.
Per the first line of my previous post:

"Turkey's best ploy was to sit on the fence and see who emerged the winner."

(Granted I did also speculate on best options if push came to shove on which side to align with.)

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Dark Age
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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Dark Age » 05 Sep 2020 23:59

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Sep 2020 01:49

If the Germans stayed on the defensive for the first couple of months it's hard to envision the military disaster being worse than OTL: there would be no giant encirclements so the casualty and equipment loss ratios would ~5:1 at worst instead of 1941's >12:1.
This is probably false. The Red Army attackers would get encircled, then annihilated, then counter-attacked. These New Tannenbergs would happen in Poland and Romania (for the latter the thought of attacking Germany's main source of oil while simultaneously attacking the flank-rear of Axis forces fighting against Turkey, not to mention the fact that Romania is a weak Axis ally, would probably make a powerful Soviet drive into Romania irresistible).

These Soviet defeats would be more spiritually unsettling because the Soviets are the aggressor. In the real timeline, no sizable defeat can spiritually break the Soviets because the Germans were the aggressor and wanted to enslave/starve/exterminate the Russian/Slavic people.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Sep 2020 01:49

More important than the SU's OTL military disasters in the first 3 months was the economic disaster, something people often overlook. SU lost ~1/3 of its population and ~half of its heavy industrial base in Barbarossa (1942 steel production was <half of 1940's, for instance). In '42 its GDP was lower than the Japanese Empire's.

Had the Soviets not lost all that territory/population in '41, its '42 army could easily have been 50% stronger. That's a disaster for Germany; Hitler is dead by the end of '43 at the latest.
Although I understand the point you are making about the magnitude of the 1941 disaster, I don't buy the argument that the Soviets are stronger on the attack (or on declaring war on Germany). Russia's initial armies are tough but subsequent effort (after initial defeat) is always feeble, regardless of their enormous resource base. Historically, they suck.

Germany's drive into the Soviet Union exhausted the Wehrmacht logistically and any territory-perks they gained was poisonous fruit (they did nothing resource-wise with the territory they occupied anyway and the hostile territory required costly garrison). The fact that Germany attacked the country (the attack was a sneak attack btw) and regarded the Russians as inferior sub-humans (to be enslaved/exterminated) worked to the SU's advantage. It united the country which before was filled with endless malcontents regarding Stalin and the Soviet regime (White Russians, Ukrainians, etc.). It gave the Soviets the moral advantage. Battles aren't always numbers; we can't ignore the spiritual aspect of conflicts.

If Germany is attacked by the U.S.S.R some of that spiritual advantage is lost. This is especially the case if Germany has more limited aims, like being content to just occupy the Baltic States and the Western Ukraine in the event of a quick victory settlement with the Soviets (because Germany is still at war with Turkey and the British). Doesn't mean German racial hostility dissipates but a hostile Turkey might convince Hitler to reach a fast settlement after the first few, quick German victories rather than keeping his armies in Russia to drive for the Urals, for which the Russians will/can never allow/agree to.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Sep 2020 01:49
Read Gorodetsky's Grand Delusion or Kotkin's biography of Stalin. There was a potential agreement re Turkey. Not to split a la Poland and exterminate the state de jure but for the Soviets to have bases throughout Turkey and the Germans on the European side.
Maybe I will. Still, if Hitler attacks Turkey, the best decision Stalin could make might be to attack Turkey as well (depending on Great Britain's response). As I said, attacking Germany wouldn't work in the Soviet Union's favor imo. By attacking Turkey, Stalin wouldn't start a disadvantageous war with Hitler and still could make a larger buffer between the Caucasus Oil fields/Baku and the Wehrmacht, as the Red Army would occupy Eastern Turkey.

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Dark Age
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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Dark Age » 06 Sep 2020 00:28

Sid Guttridge wrote:
05 Sep 2020 19:55
Hi Guys,

This thread has not once considered Turkey's position. It simply assumes that it could be coopted by one side or the other.

Until Turkey's position and ambitions are established and some justification given for it to jump one way or the other, the entire thread is operating in a vacuum.

"What-ifs" only have value if they are grounded in a plausible reality. This has yet to be established here.

What did Turkey want?

What are the Axis and Allies offering for its alliance?

Cheers,

Sid.
This thread understands Germany's position. A) Great Britain is an obstacle (that Germany failed to break in 1940) B) The Soviet Union is an obstacle (that Germany invaded and failed to defeat historically) C) Turkey is an obstacle (whose neutrality makes a drive through Egypt/Middle East insanely difficult).

If you can't fathom Turkey joining the Axis for oil and territory (with oil), then just assume Hitler attacks the country due it being the weakest link of the three (or even to provoke the Russians into a clumsy attack now that this thread has evolved and I have had time to think). Again, I am not sure how much oil was discovered in the Middle East in 1941 which can weigh heavily on both decisions (Turkey joining the Axis, or Hitler attacking Turkey).

Furthermore, we cannot base what-ifs solely on rationality because humans don't behave rationally. If World War Two combatants were rational:

1) The USA would have declared war on Germany on Sept 3, 1939.
2) The Soviet Union would have attacked Romania in May 1940 (while Germany was distracted in the West).
3) Germany wouldn't have invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 (because any intelligent dictator would just assume the Russians would retreat like they did in 1812, making battles of annihilation impossible. Germany simply got lucky the Russians stood and fought making Barbarossa seem more logical than it was).

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Dark Age
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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Dark Age » 06 Sep 2020 01:09

Kingfish wrote:
05 Sep 2020 12:53
Dark Age wrote:
04 Sep 2020 21:52
Stalin wasn't really good at reading the warning signs (the Germans already telegraphed an attack historically) and stationing troops on Turkish/Soviet border doesn't necessarily mean an attack anyway (enter some defensive excuse).
There are warning signs and then there are warning signs. Massing troops along the demarcation line in Poland is one thing, having Turkey joining the Axis camp and allowing German troops along it's border with Russia is something else. Couple the two together and I don't believe even Stalin could hand wave that away.
Still, if Turkish troops are fighting with the Axis, this disadvantage is offset.
Perhaps, but as mentioned earlier this new alliance means their southern border needs attending to. This would be especially true if the German forces earmarked for Turkey come from those historically assigned to North Africa. That would free up a significant number of Commonwealth units for duty in the Levant.
Interesting. I am unaware how sensitive the Soviets are to German troops being stationed across their Southern border with Turkey. The USA placed nuclear missiles in Turkey without immediate result (Soviets later countered in Cuba). Of course, that was post-war carnage so attitudes may not be comparable.

Regarding your second point, I still think +200,000 troops (think that was Turkey's peacetime strength) added to the Axis, helps the Axis. This reminds me of What-Ifs I hear regarding Spain joining the Axis and many seem to be in agreement that Spain would only be a liability to Germany because of the poor state of the Spanish military, which would force Germany to have to defend even more Atlantic coast-line from invasion; Gibraltar isn't worth it. I don't think it is the same with Turkey though. Its military was probably more useful than Spain's and it's strategic position (Middle East, Caucasus) seems too important, far greater than Gibraltar.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Avalancheon » 06 Sep 2020 01:22

Dark Age wrote:
02 Sep 2020 01:30
FIRST SCENARIO

The importance of Turkey's geographical position seems undeniable. Knowing this, what if Hitler, after the Balkan conquest in April-May 1941, was able to convince Turkey to join the Axis (to regain territory lost in World War One). What would Stalin's/ the U.S.S.R's reaction be? History has shown that Stalin was afraid to go to war with Hitler in 1941 and was in denial of an impending attack. Having another potential country to fight (Germany, Italy, possibly Japan, and, now Turkey) could only make him more hesitant to commit any offensive strike.

Still, the fact that Hitler could now threaten the Soviet Union's southern flank and the majority of its oil fields by placing troops on the Turkish/Soviet border could cause alarm (similar to how the USA felt threatened in 1962 by the Soviet's suddenly placing nuclear missiles in Cuba). Would Stalin be compelled to act? Would Stalin at least attempt to act against Turkey?

SECOND SCENARIO

Now, what if Hitler, deciding not to attack the Soviet Union in 1941, decided, after the Balkan campaign, that he would steamroll Turkey instead if they choose not to join the Axis. In this scenario, Hitler seeks to gain access to the Middle East, and both Stalin's and the British Army's flank/rear. Or perhaps Mussolini provokes Turkey somehow causing it to join the war on the British side which forces Hitler to act. Using the word, "steamroll" is somewhat condescending. Turkey is an enormous country, with (I think) difficult terrain for tanks so to assume the Germany Army would just effortlessly crush the Turks is perhaps foolish. Plus there will be immense logistical issues. Still there is little doubt Turkey's small portion of land in Thrace (its European foothold) and its largest city, Istanbul (after likely a brief siege), would fall to the Wehrmacht.
I made a post on a similar topic a couple years back. It was about a German invasion of Turkey in May-June 1941. viewtopic.php?p=2170810#p2170810

The problem with your scenario is that it doesn't provide a plausible POD (point of departure) for how this would happen. Germany was all but forced to go to war with the Soviet Union, after the failure of the Molotov conference in November 1940. They had overlapping spheres of influence and could not come to any diplomatic agreement. The conference failed due to intransigence on the part of the Germans and Russians alike. This sowed the seeds of disaster because they were both aggressive, expansionistic empires that were ideologically opposed. Without a diplomatic understanding, war would always be on the horizon.

This is a problem with alot of the Mediterranean strategys I read about. They completely ignore the geopolitical circumstances that compelled the Nazis to embark on operation Barbarossa.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Avalancheon » 06 Sep 2020 01:37

Peter89 wrote:
03 Sep 2020 08:55
In WW2 the Turkish opted to use their strategic position to gain the most of the conflict.

Attacking them would have been too costly compared to the gains, and leaving them be was probably the best option.
Not really. Conquering Turkey isn't going to be a walk in the park, but it will be way easier than invading the Soviet Union. The Germans could probably subjugate the entire country within 2 or 3 months.

With Turkey under their control, they would be in position to not only threaten the Soviet positions in the Caucasus, but also the British positions in the Middle East. The Bosphorous and Dardanelles would be in German hands as well, giving them additional leverage over the USSR.
Peter89 wrote:
03 Sep 2020 08:55
In order to invade Turkey, one must have conduct an amphibious operation, an operation that Germany could not afford (especially not if they keep the British Isles as their strategic focus, and also the invasion of Crete destroyed a significant amount of their airborne troops and transports).
Thats nonsense. By May 1941, the Germans had troops in both Greece and Bulgaria. They had a land border with Turkey, there is no need for an amphibious operation. With one large panzer group, they could overrun eastern Thrace in a week. The Wehrmacht would destroy the bulk of the Turkish army and capture Istanbul. To cross over the Bosphorous is just a glorified river crossing operation.

And BTW. If Germany had decided to embark on a Mediterranean strategy in 1940, they would have raised additional Fallschimjaeger divisions (an built more Ju 52 transports). The Pyrrhic victory at Crete wouldn't have crippled their airborne capabilitys as much as it did OTL.
Peter89 wrote:
03 Sep 2020 08:55
Even after a successful landing, the mountainous geography of Turkey allowed them to utilize their limited military resources, because infantry and artillery were exceptionally useful under these circumstances, while motorized troops and aircrafts were not. Also, attacking them would mean +1 ally for the British - something that Germany tried to avoid.
There is some truth to this. The fighting would get harder once they moved into the mountains. But the Turks would have already lost their best trained and equipped troops by this point. All they would have left is the demoralised dregs of their army. The Germans have overwhelming superiority in every category of mention, including tanks, artillery, and air support.
Peter89 wrote:
03 Sep 2020 08:55
In the spring of 1941 there was a window of opportunity for the Germans; if they'd really want to crush the British Empire, they could have fared waaay better by military expeditions into Africa / ME, strengthening their alliance with the islam, and keeping the USA out of the war, etc. etc. If they chose to crush the BE in the region, support the local Arab independence (exterminate / deport the Jews and such, which was actually in line with the intentions of the local communities) rebellions, they could have force the Turkish to some degree of cooperation, as the Turkish allowed a train full of Axis war matériel through their territory in the Iraqi campaign.

In my opinion, the realistic Turkish cooperation with the Axis in this strategy could have been like "letting trains through" and trading with the Axis; but if we assume that the Axis focuses on this theater, the British troops in the region could have been overcame without too much Turkish assistance.
What the Axis really need is the ability to deploy combat troops throughout the Middle East. They can fight the British directly and have popular support from the locals. The Iraqi uprising would look alot different if the Germans were directly involved.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Dark Age » 06 Sep 2020 03:57

Avalancheon wrote:
06 Sep 2020 01:22

The problem with your scenario is that it doesn't provide a plausible POD (point of departure) for how this would happen. Germany was all but forced to go to war with the Soviet Union, after the failure of the Molotov conference in November 1940. They had overlapping spheres of influence and could not come to any diplomatic agreement. The conference failed due to intransigence on the part of the Germans and Russians alike. This sowed the seeds of disaster because they were both aggressive, expansionistic empires that were ideologically opposed. Without a diplomatic understanding, war would always be on the horizon.

This is a problem with alot of the Mediterranean strategys I read about. They completely ignore the geopolitical circumstances that compelled the Nazis to embark on operation Barbarossa.
Germany going to war on-side-of or against Turkey doesn't equal CANNOT GO TO WAR WITH SOVIET UNION EVER.

Regardless, as Spoch said, "There is always an alternative." Invading the Soviet Union in 1941 (in a blitz sneak attack) isn't Germany's only option. This What-if section wouldn't exist if it was.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Sep 2020 06:46

Dark Age wrote:I don't buy the argument that the Soviets are stronger on the attack (or on declaring war on Germany). Russia's initial armies are tough but subsequent effort (after initial defeat) is always feeble, regardless of their enormous resource base. Historically, they suck.
I don't buy the argument the Soviets were that much better on defense, nor the relevance of distant history like the Seven Years or Napoleonic Wars. If we go by the latter then the Germans (Prussians) don't understand how to beat the French except in a grand coalition. The Soviet defensive record contains volumes of futility.

If Germany commits 20 divisions to Turkey that's nearly a whole army group (AGN had 28). The Turkish fight requires LW and logistical support, with attendant fuel, that wasn't abundant for the Heer.

Meanwhile Stalin would not simply declare war the day the Germans invade. He'd buy time via negotiation, assemble his forces and, say a couple months later, the Germans would heavily outnumbered on their front. Just in OTL, the Germans were cooked beyond a certain force ratio disadvantage.

I don't see RKKA pushing the Germans back much/any and, sure, there'd be the occasional offensive catastrophe like Kharkov '42. But compared to >3mil prisoners captured? It takes a lot of Kharkovs to get there. The mere non-evacuation of industries pushes the material avalanche forward several months. Add to that 50% higher production and by ATL '42 the Soviet steamroller starts moving from near its 1945 starting line.
Dark Age wrote:If you can't fathom Turkey joining the Axis for oil and territory (with oil)
Many can't fathom anything changing in history for any reason. Best not to engage.

I discuss my view more here: search.php?keywords=turkey&t=243557&sf=msgonly

TL;DR: IMO there's no feasible Turkish decision to enter the war unless Russia is defeated or on verge thereof. Hitler should have acceded temporarily to some version of Stalin's demands. If he does so shortly before Barbarossa, the SU could be in the middle of a war with Turkey on June 22.

Either way, Turkey is more willing to move against Russia if Stalin has been tricked into publicly demanding humiliating concessions from the Turks. War with Russia would end British aid to Turkey almost certainly (on demand of Stalin), pushing them further into Axis arms.
Avalancheon wrote:I made a post on a similar topic a couple years back. It was about a German invasion of Turkey in May-June 1941. viewtopic.php?p=2170810#p2170810

Mediterranean strategies completely ignore the geopolitical circumstances that compelled the Nazis to embark on operation Barbarossa.
Interesting topic thread. I completely agree re the strategic lacunae of Med strategies that you point out. The only route to the MidEast and beyond for Axis involved Turkey - it's why it was on Hitler's to-do list after Russia fell.
Avalancheon wrote:The Bosphorous and Dardanelles would be in German hands as well
Would make Barbarossa logistics so much easier: let the Italian fleet play the hero's role in the Black Sea, close the Russian armies fighting at Odessa/Sevastopol from supply. Then use the secure Black Sea (Trieste-Corinth-Straits-Odessa/Nikolaev/Sevastopol) to supply AGS instead of the struggling railways. Move rail resources behind AG's C/N.
Thats nonsense[difficulty of "amphibious" landings]. To cross over the Bosphorous is just a glorified river crossing operation.
Landings from Greek islands would also be glorified river crossings, well within the range of German field artillery.

Image

Kios and Samos are actually closer to Turkey...

Landings from Lesbos/Chios/Samos put Germany within easy striking distance of the Anatolian heartland via the Aydin-Denizli valley and its rail line, as your thread shows:

Image

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Sep 2020 10:13

Hi Dark Age,

You post, "Furthermore, we cannot base what-ifs solely on rationality because humans don't behave rationally."

If "What-Ifs" aren't based in some sort of plausible historical reality, they are merely fantasy.

What are you proposing the Axis or Allies offer Turkey that might lead it to joining one camp or the other?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Peter89 » 06 Sep 2020 11:36

Dark Age wrote:
06 Sep 2020 00:28

This thread understands Germany's position. A) Great Britain is an obstacle (that Germany failed to break in 1940) B) The Soviet Union is an obstacle (that Germany invaded and failed to defeat historically) C) Turkey is an obstacle (whose neutrality makes a drive through Egypt/Middle East insanely difficult).

If you can't fathom Turkey joining the Axis for oil and territory (with oil), then just assume Hitler attacks the country due it being the weakest link of the three (or even to provoke the Russians into a clumsy attack now that this thread has evolved and I have had time to think). Again, I am not sure how much oil was discovered in the Middle East in 1941 which can weigh heavily on both decisions (Turkey joining the Axis, or Hitler attacking Turkey).
Well enough, and the infrastructure was kept intact by the Vichy French government and the Iraqi rebels, there were pipelines between Kirkuk and the Mediterran east coast ports (Tripoli and Haifa), where terminals were ready to ship the oil. The hasty and stupid Italian entry into the world war ensured that the best part of the Italian merchant fleet stuck outside of native ports, and the Axis simply did not have the means to transport the oil from the ME to the industrial heartland of the Reich. However, it was possible to support a number of mechanized troops in the ME.

Oddly enough, the world's oil production in 1940 was overwhelmingly US-based, and in general, based on the Americas. The US produced some 62+% of the world's oil production, and the Americas the 77+%. So taking the ME oil for Axis doesn't mean that the Wallies will have no oil. (Taking the Caucasus oilfields does not mean that the SU will have no oil either.) As long as the Wallies could control the seas, they could run their economies with little to no trouble. Asia had like 3.5+% share, Europe 2.5+%, the ME/NA about 5.5+%, and the SU about 10+%.

Turkish neutrality didn't need to be given up, they did not need to be occupied, the Germans needed something like the agreements with neutral Sweden. And make no mistake, had the Germans put more pressure on the matter, the Turks would have given in, just as they allowed a train full of weapons through Turkish territory (a strange byproduct of the railway lines in the region). Besides, Germans could have landed any number of troops via air or land to the rebelling Iraqis or to the Vichy French territories, but they didn't, mostly because they didn't have a strategy for that region, but also because they didn't have the means.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Sep 2020 13:46

It looks like most Anatolia originated Chromite ore went to the Brits or Allies 1939-1942. Thats something the Allies might lose from this 1941 hypothetical. German gain in this respect is dependent on how we'll they can restore the mining & transport. Ditto for any other minerals, including oil from Mosul.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Kingfish » 06 Sep 2020 13:49

Dark Age wrote:
06 Sep 2020 01:09
Interesting. I am unaware how sensitive the Soviets are to German troops being stationed across their Southern border with Turkey.
Put it in context. Russia just witnessed Germany steamroll almost all of Europe, and now has indications their attention is turning eastward.

A prudent move on Stalin's part would be to strike up another non-aggression pact only this time with Turkey, but with the added condition that no foreign troops would be allowed on either side of the border. What do you think Russia's response would be if Turkey balked at that offer?
Regarding your second point, I still think +200,000 troops (think that was Turkey's peacetime strength) added to the Axis, helps the Axis.
Perhaps, but you need to define what kind of help. A purely defensive stance that consists of just guarding German LOCs is a no gain scenario. Anything more offensive-minded would impose a drain on Axis logistics.
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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Sep 2020 14:01

A quick check suggest Turkey had between 40 & 45 infantry and cavalry divisions in 1941. Adding in corps and army supra units its a minimum division slice of 20,000 men per div HQ or 800,000 profession cadres & reservists/recent conscripts in the field forces. I suspect its closer to one million men. Another 200 to 300 k in service support, air forces, ect... accounts for the 1,200,000 men in service 1941. It looks like most of the divisions identified in 1941 existed as one or another reserve level in 1940, so one could expect the senior cadre/staff to exist when mobilization started, and at least half the junior cadre.

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Re: Turkey joins the War in May 1941. Soviet Union's Reaction

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Sep 2020 14:05

Peter89 wrote:
06 Sep 2020 11:36
...

Turkish neutrality didn't need to be given up, they did not need to be occupied, the Germans needed something like the agreements with neutral Sweden. And make no mistake, had the Germans put more pressure on the matter, the Turks would have given in, just as they allowed a train full of weapons through Turkish territory (a strange byproduct of the railway lines in the region). Besides, Germans could have landed any number of troops via air or land to the rebelling Iraqis or to the Vichy French territories, but they didn't, mostly because they didn't have a strategy for that region, but also because they didn't have the means.
There was a surge of some critical raw materials from Turkey, Chormite was one IIRC, from 1942. Allied pressure was not enough to prevent that until 1944. Whats possible in 1941 I cant say, but its certainly worth a look.

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