IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

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IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 15 Jan 2022 21:57

IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive AND thus allowed the passage Axis naval and shipping assets from the Med into the Black Sea, any thoughts on whether the Axis would have considered an amphibious operation aimed at Poti to support the overland offensive into the Caucasus?

They had, after all, something approximating a doctrine by then, given the plans and preparations for SEALION and the various plans for Malta ... and some the landing craft (built for the purpose, and extemporized, in both cases) would have been available, presumably...

And if so, any guess as to what troops may have been available? Obviously, pretty much everything they had was already on the eastern front, tied down on occupation duties across Europe, or (to a limited degree, in comparison) fighting in Africa; even if the Turks had joined in and the Italian navy and merchant marine could be spared, were there any troops left to the Germans in the summer of 1942 that could have mounted an operation worth trying?

For some details on the opposition, from: "Soviet strategic thinking regarding the "maritime flanks" of the USSR in 1941 and 1942." (thanks to Art):

"It should be added that the HQ of the Transcaucasus Front started to consider the worst case scenario (that is German invasion of Caucasus) in November 1941 and developed a preliminary directive which provided for defense from a land attack from the north and a seaborne attack against the Black Sea coast. The directive ordered the following distribution of forces:
- 44 Army in Dagestan (5 rifle and 1 mountain division) blocking attacks on Baku from the north
- 47 Army along the central Caucasus Mountains (5 rifle and 1 mountain division) blocking routes to Tbilisi
- 46 Army along the Black Sea coast up to Batumi (3 rifle and 2 mountain division) with the triple task to defend the coast in cooperation with the Black Sea Fleet, guard passes of the West Caucasus Mountains, and block advance along the coastal road.
- 45 Army along the Turkish border (5 rifle divisions)
- group of forces in Iran (1 rifle, 2 cavalry division) guarding the Turkish-Iranian border
- front reserve ( 3 rifle divisions, 2 tank brigades)

Further events interfered with this plan and after the fall of the Kerch peninsula a large portion of the Transcaucasus Front was transported to the Taman peninsula and was later employed in the Crimean landing. Still the 46 Army with several divisions continued to defend the coast against possible seaborne attack until August 1942. Retrospectively it is clear that fears of some landing operation on the Black Sea coast were exaggerated."

Presume the Turks would be content to build up the defenses of their southern coast and the land borders with Allied occupied Syria, Iraq, and Iran, as well as the northeastern border with the USSR. Also presume this requires the Axis to remain on the defensive in Africa, so no attack at Gazala, or Malta operation, of course.

Does open the possibility of a successful Axis offensive into the Transcaucasus region from Pito/Batumi to Tiflis, and the impact on the Soviet oil industry at Baku, etc.

Map (courtesy of the USMA):
https://www.westpoint.edu/sites/default ... rope23.pdf

Thoughts?

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Jan 2022 23:22

Its all very logical on the surface. its something I'd have done. But. Despite the Sea Lion experience, or perhaps because of it there was only a very weak amphibious or littoral warfare effort along the Baltic Coast in 1941. Loses of reasons for that & most of those still apply in 1942. First step here is a survey of what suitable ships & boats were available in the Black Sea, & what could have been sent down the Danube or from the Mediterranean (Italian hulls) in time.

Second is exactly where are your landing sites. What suitable beaches there are and where they are in relation to your strategic objective and ports, you operational objective.

Third is the Soviet defense on this coast, and potential reinforcements. Those would be divided into operational forces, that could show up in a few days or a week+, and strategic that would arrive weeks or months later.

Fourth are embarkation & support ports, where are they & their capacity.

Fifth where is you air support based & how much of that will you have. Theres a few of the basic questions.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 16 Jan 2022 01:50

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Jan 2022 23:22
Its all very logical on the surface. its something I'd have done. But. Despite the Sea Lion experience, or perhaps because of it there was only a very weak amphibious or littoral warfare effort along the Baltic Coast in 1941. Loses of reasons for that & most of those still apply in 1942. First step here is a survey of what suitable ships & boats were available in the Black Sea, & what could have been sent down the Danube or from the Mediterranean (Italian hulls) in time.

Second is exactly where are your landing sites. What suitable beaches there are and where they are in relation to your strategic objective and ports, you operational objective.

Third is the Soviet defense on this coast, and potential reinforcements. Those would be divided into operational forces, that could show up in a few days or a week+, and strategic that would arrive weeks or months later.

Fourth are embarkation & support ports, where are they & their capacity.

Fifth where is you air support based & how much of that will you have. Theres a few of the basic questions.
Understood and agree. If the naval support and shipping is limited to what the Axis "historically" had in the Black Sea in 1941-42, it's a non-starter - basically, four Romanian destroyers for the covering force, and one doesn't expect the Romanian merchant marine, plus whatever the Germans can move down the Danube, would be anywhere near enough.

However, if the Turks will accept a "not quite neutral but only semi-co-belligerent" role like the Bulgarians, it could get interesting. As examples, IF they look the other way at Italian shipping moving through the Bosporus (suspend the Montreux Convention? The Italians pull a "Souchon" and send a naval squadron and amphibious shipping to the Aegean, swap flags and put their men in fezzes, sail through the Straits, and then become Italians again?), they could get some significant forces in play.

Operation HERCULES OST?

As it was, the Axis were planning to invade Malta with eight light divisions (one German, seven Italian, which included a German airborne division, an Italian airborne division, and an Italian airlanding division); the amphibious element were two reinforced Italian divisions in the first wave, with two more to follow, and a fifth in reserve. Covering forces were supposed to include four battleships, four heavy cruisers, eight light cruisers, and 21 destroyers.

Cut all that in half, even, and it amounts to (roughly) a reinforced German airborne division (four regiments?) and five infantry RCTs/brigade group equivalents by sea. Looking at what the Germans were able to move into North Africa and the Med after TORCH buy before HUSKY, and maybe that's the equivalent of a German armored/motorized division (10th Panzer, presumably) and an infantry division (334th, presumably, which had a mountain element), plus "some" Italians?

"Gebirgs-armee Ost," under Student, I guess, with:

German 7th Parachute, 10th Panzer, 334th Infantry; Italian Folgore Airborne, Livorno Infantry, and Friuli Infantry, all reinforced by various infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, etc.

With half the Italian surface forces planned for HERCULE/C3, that's (presumably) Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio. four Italian light cruisers, and nine Italian destroyers, plus various escorts, minesweepers, and assorted small craft, along with the Romanian fleet (four destroyers), and - presumably - at least Hermes to represent the KM surface force ... plus various submarines, Italian, German, and Romanian.

Although the question of transferring Yavuz BACK into German hands as Goeben is an intriguing one... the correlation of the above Axis naval forces with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet would be interesting.

Air power would have to be transferred from the Med, which would be another reason for Rommel et al to remain on the defensive in Libya, of course. Basing would be Romania, occupied Ukraine, etc.

As far as landing sites, looking at Google maps, seems like north of Poti would provide decent beaches, and the map linked to below gives a general sense of the theater and the timeframe:

[urlhttps://www.westpoint.edu/sites/default/files/i ... rope23.pdf][/url]

But other than drawing from the forces that (historically) were in, or went to, the Med in 1942, hard to see any other reservoir of useful troops, shipping, aircraft, and equipment at the time, and of course getting them into the Black Sea requires the Turks to walk right up to the edge of joining the war, if not actually do so ... maybe the deal is the Axis agrees to supply the Turks with oil from Romania. and (presumably) some territorial gains - Azerbaijian or whatever, "postwar." Hard to imagine that being enough, but hey, it's a 'what if' ...

Definitely unrealistic in terms of diplomacy, but not - for once - in terms of equipment, doctrine, and trained forces. Better than most "Successful SEALION in 1940" or "Japan conquers Oahu in 1941" concepts, and those appear to be running gags.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Jan 2022 01:04

Some detail from Alpini Arditi on the Italy forum:

"As Student's deputy, I would think that the commander of the Italian Folgore Division, General Enrico Frattini, would have been a prime candidate, if he and his force would not have been at El Alamein.

As for the Italian Naval commander, perhaps Admiral Giuseppe Fioravanzo. He was responsible for the Navy Department of Special Studies for a time, which included pre-war planning for the invasion of Malta, and although by autumn 1942 was in a sea command, he would've been very suitable for the task of co-ordinating a sea-borne element landing operation."

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by thaddeus_c » 17 Jan 2022 06:04

there is a good paper on the subject https://www.jstor.org/stable/44641609?s ... b_contents

the Germans really needed a naval effort from the onset of invasion, one of the points made in the above paper was the supply and later evacuations from Crimea were stopped/slowed, whereas they had been able to rather easily evacuate to Crimea earlier, the change with relatively minor naval forces.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Jan 2022 20:26

thaddeus_c wrote:
17 Jan 2022 06:04
there is a good paper on the subject https://www.jstor.org/stable/44641609?s ... b_contents

the Germans really needed a naval effort from the onset of invasion, one of the points made in the above paper was the supply and later evacuations from Crimea were stopped/slowed, whereas they had been able to rather easily evacuate to Crimea earlier, the change with relatively minor naval forces.
Thanks much for the link. Very interesting read; kind of surprising, that after all the effort the Germans put into their amphibious force and planning in 1940, and the efforts underway with the Italians toward an actual combined operation against Malta in 1942, no one made the leap that the same resources - move, if possible, into the Black Sea - could have had a huge impact, and against an enemy that - unlike the British - were much less capable of organizing a substantial joint (air-sea-land) defense of the potentially threatened coast.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Jan 2022 02:25

The only other thing I'd suggest at this point is a calculation of the material required to supply this lodgment, where it would be embarked, how it get to the embarkation point, what cargo ships are required, & discharge details at the destination.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 19 Jan 2022 04:38

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
19 Jan 2022 02:25
The only other thing I'd suggest at this point is a calculation of the material required to supply this lodgment, where it would be embarked, how it get to the embarkation point, what cargo ships are required, & discharge details at the destination.
Sure - just as a rough rule of thumb, presume the shipping equivalent to what the Germans and Italians had assembled (historically) for HERCULES/C3, some percentage of what they used to get the Axis reinforcement to North Africa after TORCH in 1942-43, and some additional element from whatever they could have moved via the Rhine/overland/Danube, and what they had in the Black Sea, historically.

It would have been a strain, of course, but given that they lost in the Caucasus and Egypt, historically, in this same period (roughly), and without actually trying for Malta. seems worth kicking around whether they "might" have won in the Caucasus with the same resources...

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Jan 2022 05:00

Ive not played enough East Front games to judge from that perspective.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by AnchorSteam » 19 Jan 2022 06:43

Well, i can see why you would just want Yavuz given to the Germans instead of the entire Turkish Fleet joining in.
Just looked them up and it's pathetic; 4 x DDs of a 1931 Italian pattern, half a dozen Subs that look pretty good, even the mine-layer, and one OLD cruiser with 6 x 5.1" Vikers guns.... and that's it. Not even any small craft worth mentioning, and that "cruiser" looks as if it would have a hard time keeping up with Yavuz.

And the ex-Goeben might have a really bad time if it had to fight the Sevastopol. The Russian battleship has more guns, bigger guns and armor that is very similar. Goeben is probably still a lot faster, but that's the only thing in it's favor.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 21 Jan 2022 05:40

AnchorSteam wrote:
19 Jan 2022 06:43
Well, i can see why you would just want Yavuz given to the Germans instead of the entire Turkish Fleet joining in.
Just looked them up and it's pathetic; 4 x DDs of a 1931 Italian pattern, half a dozen Subs that look pretty good, even the mine-layer, and one OLD cruiser with 6 x 5.1" Vikers guns.... and that's it. Not even any small craft worth mentioning, and that "cruiser" looks as if it would have a hard time keeping up with Yavuz.

And the ex-Goeben might have a really bad time if it had to fight the Sevastopol. The Russian battleship has more guns, bigger guns and armor that is very similar. Goeben is probably still a lot faster, but that's the only thing in it's favor.
Third post in the thread includes the Italian Navy's planned force for HERCULES/C3, and a "what if" in terms of a possible detachment for the Black Sea - if, of course, the Turks open the Straits.

As far as Goeben goes, the KM recommissioned Niobe in 1943 after the Italians bowed out, and she was a dozen years older than the battlecruiser.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by AnchorSteam » 22 Jan 2022 20:14

daveshoup2MD wrote:
21 Jan 2022 05:40
Third post in the thread includes the Italian Navy's planned force for HERCULES/C3, and a "what if" in terms of a possible detachment for the Black Sea - if, of course, the Turks open the Straits.
That would have worked fine, but only if they could get enough fuel from the Romanians.
And there lies the rub...
daveshoup2MD wrote:
21 Jan 2022 05:40
As far as Goeben goes, the KM recommissioned Niobe in 1943 after the Italians bowed out, and she was a dozen years older than the battlecruiser.
Yes, and IIRC, that cruiser didn't last till the end of that year. The RN always seems to have had a pretty extreme reaction to Germans with cruisers. :milwink:

The Sevastopol would have been the underdog in a battle with one of Italy's re-built BBs, add Goeben to the scales and it's a no-win situation for the Red Fleet. The lesser ships could easily have been matched by the Italians..... if they could be kept fueled.
But, for how long?
I assume this is in 1942, Spring, and in the Summer even fuel-starved ships will be needed to strangle Malta and cover the Athes-Tobruk runs.

(would 2/3rds of the Italian fleet be able to operate on the fuel Italy was getting?)

I suggest going all-in, with 1/3rd of the fleet going in to get the job done quickly. This would include shallow-draft ships to pick up a couple of Aplini Divisions at Rostov and run them down the coast. This will be done with the understanding that most of them will have to leave by sometime in July.
Italy would be entitled to take a few tankers full of fuel back with them for their trouble, so.....

It all comes down to Romania, and they were not very generous (no axis nations were, as a rule) with their oil reserves. THEY are the variable that needs to be addressed here.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by AnchorSteam » 22 Jan 2022 20:27

Oh, and you will need more than 9 x DDs, the Russians had a lot of Subs down there. I would add 8 more DDs to what you have above, plus at least one Heavy cruiser and a seaplane tender.... for ASW float-planes.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 22 Jan 2022 23:23

AnchorSteam wrote:
22 Jan 2022 20:14
daveshoup2MD wrote:
21 Jan 2022 05:40
Third post in the thread includes the Italian Navy's planned force for HERCULES/C3, and a "what if" in terms of a possible detachment for the Black Sea - if, of course, the Turks open the Straits.
That would have worked fine, but only if they could get enough fuel from the Romanians.
And there lies the rub...
daveshoup2MD wrote:
21 Jan 2022 05:40
As far as Goeben goes, the KM recommissioned Niobe in 1943 after the Italians bowed out, and she was a dozen years older than the battlecruiser.
Yes, and IIRC, that cruiser didn't last till the end of that year. The RN always seems to have had a pretty extreme reaction to Germans with cruisers. :milwink:

The Sevastopol would have been the underdog in a battle with one of Italy's re-built BBs, add Goeben to the scales and it's a no-win situation for the Red Fleet. The lesser ships could easily have been matched by the Italians..... if they could be kept fueled.
But, for how long?
I assume this is in 1942, Spring, and in the Summer even fuel-starved ships will be needed to strangle Malta and cover the Athes-Tobruk runs.

(would 2/3rds of the Italian fleet be able to operate on the fuel Italy was getting?)

I suggest going all-in, with 1/3rd of the fleet going in to get the job done quickly. This would include shallow-draft ships to pick up a couple of Aplini Divisions at Rostov and run them down the coast. This will be done with the understanding that most of them will have to leave by sometime in July.
Italy would be entitled to take a few tankers full of fuel back with them for their trouble, so.....

It all comes down to Romania, and they were not very generous (no axis nations were, as a rule) with their oil reserves. THEY are the variable that needs to be addressed here.
True enough, but the Axis had a choice in 1942 in the "greater MTO/SW Asia/SE Russia" region: a) be defeated in Africa and SE Russia; b) try to win in one or the other; they certainly could not manage a win in both theaters...

They - quite idiotically - chose to be defeated in Africa and SE Russia. Given that we are in "what if" world, however, one presumes they could have a) chosen to stand pat in Libya after CRUSADER; b) go after either b-1) Malta, or b-2) SE Russia/Poti/Tblisi, with follow-ups after b-1 or b-2 as might have made sense - ideally, with b-2, it would have been a drive east-west across Transcaucasia on Baku, which actually amounted to an economically important point, unlike - say - the Western Desert of Egypt.

Avoiding urban warfare at Stalingrad, especially with an Army Group made up largely on leg infantry from Hungary, Italy, and Romania (which, presumably, would have been willing to trade bunker fuel in return for NOT having their field army destroyed), would have been smart, as well, but that's (mostly) a different question.

The British did (more or less) finish off Niobe, but to be fair, the Germans had managed to run her aground for them beforehand.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 22 Jan 2022 23:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: IF the Turks had joined the Axis in time for the 1942 offensive - Axis amphibious operations in the Black Sea?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 22 Jan 2022 23:36

AnchorSteam wrote:
22 Jan 2022 20:27
Oh, and you will need more than 9 x DDs, the Russians had a lot of Subs down there. I would add 8 more DDs to what you have above, plus at least one Heavy cruiser and a seaplane tender.... for ASW float-planes.
The Axis "Black Sea Fleet" outlined above is (roughly) half of what the Italians were willing to commit to HERCULES/C3, so that's two of the modernized old battleships, Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, four Italian light cruisers, and nine Italian destroyers, plus various escorts, minesweepers, and assorted small craft, along with the Romanian fleet (four destroyers), and - presumably - at least Hermes to represent the KM surface force ... plus various submarines, Italian, German, and Romanian. If the Turks are willing to kick in, that's Yawuz/Goeben, four modern destroyers (for a total of 18), submarines, small craft, etc.

Considering the realities of the war record of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet under Oktyabrsky, especially the major warships, presumably they'd go down fighting, but hard to see them "winning" against an Axis naval surface force worth the name ...

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