If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

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If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 08 Feb 2022 00:12

If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943 (when, historically, Portugal signed the Luso-British agreement, which leased bases in the Azores to the British and - later - extended their availability to the US), what could the country's (realistic) contribution have included?

The Army and air forces were focused on the defense of the country itself, the Atlantic islands (and the rest of the Empire), so presumably it mostly stands pat; the Navy, with a dozen reasonably capable destroyers and escorts and three fairly modern submarines, presumably would have been integrated into the Allied escort/ASW pool in the eastern Atlantic, especially the north-south convoys from the UK to the Med and West Africa. The Portuguese merchant marine would have been useful, and some Portuguese exports (tungsten, especially) would have been helpful.

The Portuguese had managed a two-division+ expeditionary force in France in WW I; the experience was hard-won, and presumably any ground forces sent to an active front would have been volunteers or something close, but - maybe a brigade group in 1944-45, with either the 15th or 21st Army Group? A division seems a stretch, but anyone with some more insight?

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by gebhk » 12 Feb 2022 12:51

Much would depend on the reaction of Spain to this development I presume?

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 12 Feb 2022 21:42

gebhk wrote:
12 Feb 2022 12:51
Much would depend on the reaction of Spain to this development I presume?
Undoubtedly, but by August, 1943, the writing was pretty much on the wall. Franco ordered the withdrawal of Spanish personnel from the Heer's 250th Division in October, and discussions about doing so had been underway since the spring of the same year. Presumably overt Portuguese belligerency would have sped that up; with Allied air and naval bases in Gibraltar, all across North Africa, and in Sicily and points east by the same month. and the potential of bases in the Azores and Portugal proper, and the general weaknesses of the Spanish economy and military at the same time, Spain was in even a weaker position that it had been in 1940-42.

Presumably the Spanish reaction would have been to pursue strict neutrality.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by Ironmachine » 13 Feb 2022 08:52

gebhk wrote:Much would depend on the reaction of Spain to this development I presume?
Probably, just wait and hope for the best.

As for Portugal's contribution to the Allied war effort, by 1943 the air force and the navy would have added little to the Allied forces. As for a land contingent, there was certainly no lack of warm bodies, but as all the equipment would have had to be provided by the Allies, it would probably depend on the Allies' political interest in having a Portuguese "corps" in their OOB.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by gebhk » 13 Feb 2022 10:05

Hi ironmachine

While the problem was not perhaps so acute in 1943, by 1944 'warm bodies' were a major problem - in Italy in particular and particularly to the Brritish, while equipment was not. So I would think any source of manpower would have been more than welcome and particulalry one so conveniently relatively local. After all the Allies thought it worthwhile to equip and ship the FEB all the way from Brazil to the Mediterranean. So I don't think there would have been any problem with that. Plus of course the propaganda benefits are not to be sneezed at.....

So the contribution, albeit one we would perhaps not be able to appreciate now, may have been a shortenening of the Italian campaign in mid and late 1944 which, in turn, would have opened opportunities for the Western Allies in the Balkans and Austria.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by Sheldrake » 13 Feb 2022 12:14

Portugal's main contribution was to allow the US to use an airfoeld in the Azores.

Not sure how welcome the Portuguese would have been to the British. Although Portugal is Britain's oldest allies, the Portuguese expeditionalry force had a very unhappy time in Flamnders in WW1. What were known by Tommies as the Pork-and-geese or Pork-and-beans were ill equipped and ill trained for C20th warfare. The 2nd Portuguese Division was overun in the first day of the German "Georgette" offensive - the battle of the Lys.

Not sure that Portugal had any appetite to get involved either.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by gebhk » 13 Feb 2022 16:31

Hi Sheldrake

I am not sure that such historcial considerations would have trumped the desperate need for manpower. After all the Allies were arming the French whose less than stellar performance (everyone has them) was much more recent and, let's face it, the British too had had their less than glowing moments more recently still. A few extra infantry divisions may well have made all the difference to the fighting on the Gothic Line, for example. Maybe.

However, (albeit this is outside the remit of this thread) I would suggest that the real deal-breaker is Portugal's lack of any appetite for WW2. Indeed, among the older generations of Portuguese I've spoken with, what approval of and admiration for Salazar remains, primarily rested on the fact that he kept Portugal out of the war. And why would it not? The only sensible rationale for getting involved would be if Portugal felt threatened by its neighbour. Only then would joining forces with the Allies make sense - much as it did to South American countries like Peru which maintained friendly relations with the Allies and/or declared war on Germany, primarily as a means of accessing US military equipment, knowhow and support to use in their local conflicts. Portugal, on the other hand, had assurance that it was safe so long as it remained neutral (the basis being the 1940 protocol of the Iberian Pact).

It is probably not too far from the truth to say that Portugal's role in keeping Spain neutral in a neutral Iberian bloc was a much greater service to the Allied cause than any military help it could have given at the start of the war. While by 1943, as Ironmachine and Daveshoup have pointed out, Spain's appetite for joining the Axis may have been much reduced, I suspect the British may well have still been chary of poking that potential anthill.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Feb 2022 21:06

Sheldrake wrote:
13 Feb 2022 12:14
Portugal's main contribution was to allow the US to use an airfoeld in the Azores.

Not sure how welcome the Portuguese would have been to the British. Although Portugal is Britain's oldest allies, the Portuguese expeditionalry force had a very unhappy time in Flamnders in WW1. What were known by Tommies as the Pork-and-geese or Pork-and-beans were ill equipped and ill trained for C20th warfare. The 2nd Portuguese Division was overun in the first day of the German "Georgette" offensive - the battle of the Lys.

Not sure that Portugal had any appetite to get involved either.
In WWI, the Portuguese were equipped by the British and trained alongside British forces, so that's hardly a knock against the Portuguese...

British accounts of the Portuguese Corps’ participation in combat on the Western Front are generally dismissive, even though the Portuguese units - which had no secure replacement pipeline after their initial deployment - experienced heavy combat and held until crushed by a 3-1, multi-division German attack at Lys, with a record comparable to those of the British 40th and 55th divisions, which flanked the Portuguese force, which also faced heavier odds on less defensible ground with a longer frontage. The standard British narrative about the Portuguese at Lys is false, according to research that depends less on British and more on Portuguese sources. The obvious counter-example is the story of Private Anibal Augusto Milhais.

Here's some examples:

https://www.westernfrontassociation.com ... el-freire/

Discussion of Lys is about 14 minutes in.

Couple of other pieces:

http://www.worldwar1.com/france/portugal.htm

https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67 ... adc115143/

http://www.portugalgrandeguerra.defesa. ... 0FORCE.pdf

Seems like the Portuguese were at least as sinned against by their British corps and army leadership - and their own national leadership, back in Portugal, after a change in government - as they were sinners, in comparison.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 13 Feb 2022 23:48, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Feb 2022 21:19

Ironmachine wrote:
13 Feb 2022 08:52
gebhk wrote:Much would depend on the reaction of Spain to this development I presume?
Probably, just wait and hope for the best.

As for Portugal's contribution to the Allied war effort, by 1943 the air force and the navy would have added little to the Allied forces. As for a land contingent, there was certainly no lack of warm bodies, but as all the equipment would have had to be provided by the Allies, it would probably depend on the Allies' political interest in having a Portuguese "corps" in their OOB.
As far as the Portuguese surface warships go, considering the British kept the surviving seven ex-USCG Chelan class ocean-going cutters in commission as long range escort sloops until after VJ day, as well as still having more than 40 of the ex-Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson in service as ASW escorts with the RN and RCN in 1943, ... um, probably not. ;)

Especially as the available escorts for the now combined SL/KM convoys at this point amounted (according to Rohwer) 10 destroyers (eight of them V&W types), 15 frigates/sloops, and 23 corvettes, split into seven escort groups (so averaging 6-7 escorts each); the modern Portuguese escorts would increase that by almost 25 percent, including increasing the number of destroyers by 50 percent (Portuguese Douro, Dao, Lima, Tejo, Vouga) and adding six ocean-going sloops (Albuquerque, Dias, Nunes, Lisboa, Velho, Zarco). That is hardly "little" in a key area, especially given the large Allied forces being moved into the Med at this same time, and the North Russian convoys set to resume in the winter.

Similar point on the Portuguese submarines, which were modern (commissioned in the mid-30s), British designed/built boats; at a time (1943) when the British still had 10 WW I-era H and L boats in service, much less seven ex-USN R and S-boats, in commission for ASW training, seems like they would have been useful as well.

And considering the British broke up the 1st Armoured Division and 50th and 59th infantry divisions in 1944 to provide infantry replacements for the remaining British formations in the 15th and 21st army groups, presumably any Portuguese Army elements would have been welcomed. :roll:

Of course, considering that at the same time the British were breaking up experienced combat divisions in 1944, they were sending 10% of their physically fit conscripts - some 48,000 young men - into the coal mines in the Bevin Boys' program at the same time they were pressuring the Canadians to send NRMA conscripts to the 21st AG and begging to keep the 2nd NZ Division in the 15th AG, one wonders how rational any of Britain's manpower policies were, period. ;)
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 14 Feb 2022 06:22, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Feb 2022 21:22

gebhk wrote:
13 Feb 2022 10:05
Hi ironmachine

While the problem was not perhaps so acute in 1943, by 1944 'warm bodies' were a major problem - in Italy in particular and particularly to the Brritish, while equipment was not. So I would think any source of manpower would have been more than welcome and particulalry one so conveniently relatively local. After all the Allies thought it worthwhile to equip and ship the FEB all the way from Brazil to the Mediterranean. So I don't think there would have been any problem with that. Plus of course the propaganda benefits are not to be sneezed at.....

So the contribution, albeit one we would perhaps not be able to appreciate now, may have been a shortenening of the Italian campaign in mid and late 1944 which, in turn, would have opened opportunities for the Western Allies in the Balkans and Austria.
Worth noting is the British broke up 1st Armoured Division and 50th and 59th infantry divisions in 1944 because they could not manage their manpower proficiently enough to keep three veteran combat divisions in action in Europe; of course, they sent 48,000 physically fit young male conscripts into the coal mines in the same period, so expecting rational decisions about manpower allotment from the British in 1943-45 may be asking too much... ;)

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Feb 2022 21:39

gebhk wrote:
13 Feb 2022 16:31
Hi Sheldrake

I am not sure that such historcial considerations would have trumped the desperate need for manpower. After all the Allies were arming the French whose less than stellar performance (everyone has them) was much more recent and, let's face it, the British too had had their less than glowing moments more recently still. A few extra infantry divisions may well have made all the difference to the fighting on the Gothic Line, for example. Maybe.

However, (albeit this is outside the remit of this thread) I would suggest that the real deal-breaker is Portugal's lack of any appetite for WW2. Indeed, among the older generations of Portuguese I've spoken with, what approval of and admiration for Salazar remains, primarily rested on the fact that he kept Portugal out of the war. And why would it not? The only sensible rationale for getting involved would be if Portugal felt threatened by its neighbour. Only then would joining forces with the Allies make sense - much as it did to South American countries like Peru which maintained friendly relations with the Allies and/or declared war on Germany, primarily as a means of accessing US military equipment, knowhow and support to use in their local conflicts. Portugal, on the other hand, had assurance that it was safe so long as it remained neutral (the basis being the 1940 protocol of the Iberian Pact).

It is probably not too far from the truth to say that Portugal's role in keeping Spain neutral in a neutral Iberian bloc was a much greater service to the Allied cause than any military help it could have given at the start of the war. While by 1943, as Ironmachine and Daveshoup have pointed out, Spain's appetite for joining the Axis may have been much reduced, I suspect the British may well have still been chary of poking that potential anthill.
Fair point about Portuguese politics, but the hope in raising this was that if anyone had any insights into the Portuguese order of battle and officer corps in 1943-45, they would be offered up. According to a few website (Niehorster for example) when the war began, the Portuguese had a mobilization structure of (roughly) four reinforced infantry divisions; given the experience of WW I, presume the Portuguese would have asked for volunteers, rather than conscripts, so perhaps a brigade group to start - maybe growing to a single division, along the lines of (for example) the Brazilian experience in (roughly) the same period?

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by Ironmachine » 14 Feb 2022 08:05

gebhk wrote:
Ironmachine wrote:As for a land contingent, there was certainly no lack of warm bodies, but as all the equipment would have had to be provided by the Allies,
While the problem was not perhaps so acute in 1943, by 1944 'warm bodies' were a major problem - in Italy in particular and particularly to the Brritish, while equipment was not.
When I said there was no lack of warm bodies, I meant Portuguese warm bodies. In other words, the Portuguese would have had no problems to provide enough men (by one method or another, that is volunteers or recruits) for a division or perhaps a corps. But they could not equip them, much less so with modern weapons.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by gebhk » 14 Feb 2022 09:14

I agree - that is what I am saying.

The point is that the British needed warm bodies - indeed were desperate for them. Equipping them was not a big problem. That is exactly what was being done with the French, Brazilians, Poles etc

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by daveshoup2MD » 14 Feb 2022 22:02

gebhk wrote:
14 Feb 2022 09:14
I agree - that is what I am saying.

The point is that the British needed warm bodies - indeed were desperate for them. Equipping them was not a big problem. That is exactly what was being done with the French, Brazilians, Poles etc
Ironmachine wrote:
14 Feb 2022 08:05
gebhk wrote:
Ironmachine wrote:As for a land contingent, there was certainly no lack of warm bodies, but as all the equipment would have had to be provided by the Allies,
While the problem was not perhaps so acute in 1943, by 1944 'warm bodies' were a major problem - in Italy in particular and particularly to the Brritish, while equipment was not.
When I said there was no lack of warm bodies, I meant Portuguese warm bodies. In other words, the Portuguese would have had no problems to provide enough men (by one method or another, that is volunteers or recruits) for a division or perhaps a corps. But they could not equip them, much less so with modern weapons.
True, but it's worth pointing out it was the US equipping the French and Brazilians in 1943-45. The British equipped the Poles, for the most part (albeit with a significant percentage of US L-L equipment that initially went to the British), as well as the Italian co-belligerents (from British resources, in that case), and the Czechs, Belgians, Dutch, Greeks, etc. (mostly British, but presumably with some US L-L).

One point on military equipment - anyone know if the Portuguese took any of what the British had supplied for the Western Front deployment in WW I back home with them?

Interesting question is if the Portuguese did put a force into the field under British aegis (call it a brigade group, to start). and all else being equal, where does it make the most sense to deploy? Italy, in 15th AG, under (presumably) 8th Army? Or NW Europe, in 21st AG? And if in the 21st, in the British 2nd or Canadian 1st armies? Independent, or attached to a British or Canadian division? If in the Med, with 8th Army, same question - independent or attached to a British division?
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 15 Feb 2022 21:21, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: If Portugal had fully joined the Allies in August, 1943,

Post by gebhk » 15 Feb 2022 10:44

Logistically it probably makes little difference. The decision may well, therefore, hinge on political considerations: ie whether certain deployments might make Spain twitchy and whether Portugal's brand of government might make it a less than enthusiastic combatant against certain opponents. From a purely military point of view, I suspect deployment in Italy would be the most obvious option.

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