Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

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Volyn
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Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Volyn » 17 Jul 2020 22:47

I have not seen this topic discussed before so I am not sure which thread is best -

1. If Lend-Lease materials could be brought to the USSR via Murmansk or Iran, why didn't the US or UK commit any military forces to fight the Germans on the Eastern Front?

2. The Free French sent Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and they used Soviet fighter aircraft/weaponry; was it not possible for either the US or UK to have done something similar, perhaps by sending armored troop regiments and supplied them with Soviet armor?

3. Could Italy have been bypassed in 1943 after the Allies had cleared North Africa, and instead send those Divisions to the USSR in order to help speed up the liberation of Soviet territory until France could be invaded in 1944?

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Futurist » 17 Jul 2020 23:27

Maybe the Soviet Union did not want Anglo-American troops fighting on the Eastern Front? After all, having too many of them there could result in them spreading various undesirable ideas (such as about freedom and democracy) to Soviet troops, no? Plus, maybe the Anglo-Americans were unwilling to put their own troops under Soviet military command?
3. Could Italy have been bypassed in 1943 after the Allies had cleared North Africa, and instead send those Divisions to the USSR in order to help speed up the liberation of Soviet territory until France could be invaded in 1944?
Possibly. Wasn't the invasion of Italy done in part for public relations purposes? As in, to give the impression of progress in the war and also to get Mussolini ousted?

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Dann Falk » 18 Jul 2020 03:53

One should also note that British naval and air forces were in Murmansk Russia. Covering the vital port for Lend-Lease supplies into the Soviet Union.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Art » 18 Jul 2020 08:07

Futurist wrote:
17 Jul 2020 23:27
Maybe the Soviet Union did not want Anglo-American troops fighting on the Eastern Front?
Stalin in his letter of 13 September 1941 personally asked Churchill for deployment of British divisions on the EF via Arkhangelsk and Caucasus. Which didn't have any consequences though. There were discussions regarding engagement of British forces on Caucasus later in 1942 IIRC.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Art » 18 Jul 2020 08:29

Volyn wrote:
17 Jul 2020 22:47
1. If Lend-Lease materials could be brought to the USSR via Murmansk or Iran, why didn't the US or UK commit any military forces to fight the Germans on the Eastern Front?
Because they didn't have much forces available in 1941-42 (sending 25-30 divisions Stalin was asking for was simply impossible) and any such commitment could only be made at expense of the African Front and prospective invasion to Europe. Several division wouldn't make much difference anyway and there was a large chance of a second St. Valerie. One should also consider problems with supply and communications. I believe, employment of some air force strength at Caucasus would be the most realistic scenario.
2. The Free French sent Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and they used Soviet fighter aircraft/weaponry; was it not possible for either the US or UK to have done something similar, perhaps by sending armored troop regiments and supplied them with Soviet armor?
I don't think that there was a problem with finding Soviet personnel for Soviet armor.
3. Could Italy have been bypassed in 1943 after the Allies had cleared North Africa, and instead send those Divisions to the USSR in order to help speed up the liberation of Soviet territory until France could be invaded in 1944?
Italian campaign was pretty much predetermined when the decision to launch operation "Torch" was made in the summer of 1942. Because it would be illogical to stop operations in the Mediterranean region halfway. Anyway, it doesn't seem that there was much interest on both sides in 1943.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by wm » 18 Jul 2020 09:50

The Moscow Conference
September 29, 1941
Sherwood states that "at the first meeting with Stalin, cordiality prevailed. Stalin gave a candid review of the military situation, as he had with Hopkins." But the rest of the first session was steered onto subjects with political implications:
Stalin had a great deal to say to Beaverbrook about the question of active British military cooperation with Russia. . . .
However, Stalin doesn't not appear to have pressed particularly for the second front at this conference. He did feel that the British might send forces to join the Russians in the Ukraine.
Beaverbrook pointed out that British divisions were being built up in Persia and that these might be moved into the Caucasus ...
Stalin dismissed this with the statement that "There is no war in the Caucasus but there is in the Ukraine."
Genesis of U. S.-Soviet Relations in World War II by George Fischer

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 19 Jul 2020 10:06

Art wrote:
18 Jul 2020 08:07
There were discussions regarding engagement of British forces on Caucasus later in 1942 IIRC.
According to Shtemenko (The Soviet General Staff at War p62) P I Bodin, then Chief of Operations, on a visit to Tbilisi in August told Tyulenev, “Are you aware that the Allies are trying to take advantage of our difficult position and obtain our consent to the despatch of British troops into Transcaucasia? That, of course, cannot be allowed. ... it is our duty to take all measures to repel the enemy attacks, wear them out and then defeat them. Hitler’s hopes and the desires of the Allies must be buried ...”

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Sheldrake » 19 Jul 2020 10:39

Volyn wrote:
17 Jul 2020 22:47
I have not seen this topic discussed before so I am not sure which thread is best -

1. If Lend-Lease materials could be brought to the USSR via Murmansk or Iran, why didn't the US or UK commit any military forces to fight the Germans on the Eastern Front?

2. The Free French sent Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and they used Soviet fighter aircraft/weaponry; was it not possible for either the US or UK to have done something similar, perhaps by sending armored troop regiments and supplied them with Soviet armor?

3. Could Italy have been bypassed in 1943 after the Allies had cleared North Africa, and instead send those Divisions to the USSR in order to help speed up the liberation of Soviet territory until France could be invaded in 1944?
I doubt if the allies would have been happy with British or American fighting troops under Soviet command. A small number of airmen yes. Britain's last army or the majority of the Indian army no. US Troops under Soviet army discipline? What would be the US Public's tolerance for casualties inflicted by the NKVD on stragglers or retreating troops? Would the British tolerate communist cells infiltrating Indian army units? Eisenhower as a junior theatre commander on a quiet sector of the front directed by STAVKA?

Conceptually, WW2 was a large scale siege with an inferior number of Germans on the inside. Not dissimilar to the US Civil War. As a strategic principle it makes sense to engage the surrounded and out numbered enemy on as many fronts as possible, forcing the outnumbered Germans to spread their forces. It is what happened in the US Civil War with Scott's anaconda strategy. It made sense for the allies to engage the Germans on as many theatres as possible. Front the German point of view everything was the ETO. Germans tied up in the Balkans and Italy were as engaged as if they were on the eastern front. Knocking out Italy tied down a lot of Germans in the Balkans.

In July 1943 the invasion of Sicily with seven allied divisions had a decisive impact on the battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. This was the 1943 German summer offensive and the last chance the Germans had to win the war on the Eastern Front. Hitler called of the operation because of the threat to Southern Europe and the risk of Italian defection. At that time, we now know the Germans were winning the battle in terms of tank losses. Was there anywhere on the Eastern front where the same number of allied soldiers and M4 tanks have had that impact?

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Art » 19 Jul 2020 12:30

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Jul 2020 10:39
Britain's last army or the majority of the Indian army no. US Troops under Soviet army discipline? What would be the US Public's tolerance for casualties inflicted by the NKVD on stragglers or retreating troops?
In ETO and MTO the US Army itself was responsible for maintenance of discipline, police functions, prosecution of criminals etc and didn't give away these functions to anybody else. I don't see why it should be different.
"Casualties inflicted by NKVD" is a myth somehow.
In July 1943 the invasion of Sicily with seven allied divisions had a decisive impact on the battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history.
What, again?
As Manstein describes the conference on 13 July 1943
"Since field marshal von Kluge considered a resumption of the 9 Army's offensive impossible and even more believed that a retreat to starting positions was necessary, Hitler decided, ALSO considering the need to withdraw a part of forces for transfer to the Mediterranian, to halt execution of the operation "Citadel".
So actually situation on the Eastern Front goes first as a reason.

viewtopic.php?p=2212500#p2212500
At that time, we now know the Germans were winning the battle in terms of tank losses.
By that moment the attack of Model simply stalled had to be discontinued in view of the start of the Soviet offensive against Orel. Which Kluge himself admitted very clearly at the conference at Hitler's HQ on 13 July. That meant that operation "Citadel" in its original form failed. Tank losses were irrelevant.

Anyway, I agree that a presence of a handful of Allied divisions on the Eastern Front would produce only token effect.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Max Payload » 19 Jul 2020 14:36

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Jul 2020 10:39
Would the British tolerate communist cells infiltrating Indian army units?
Of more concern to the British in the autumn of 1942 was the prospect of German forces breaking through the Caucasus and into Persia.
I doubt the national composition of any expeditionary force had received much consideration at that point.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Volyn » 19 Jul 2020 15:16

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Jul 2020 10:39
I doubt if the allies would have been happy with British or American fighting troops under Soviet command. A small number of airmen yes. Britain's last army or the majority of the Indian army no. US Troops under Soviet army discipline? What would be the US Public's tolerance for casualties inflicted by the NKVD on stragglers or retreating troops? Would the British tolerate communist cells infiltrating Indian army units? Eisenhower as a junior theatre commander on a quiet sector of the front directed by STAVKA?
The US has a history of allowing its regiments and divisions to fight under British command during WW1 and WW2 and they sent units to the USSR before.

Specifically in WW1 the US II Corps comprising both the 27th Infantry Division and the 30th Infantry Division fought under the command of the British 2nd Army in Belgium and then the British 4th Army in France during the final months of the war. They were also outfitted with British helmets, rifles and food rations, so in essence they were trained to fight as British and live like them.

In WW2 both the US 1st Army and the US 9th Army fought under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery's 21st Army Group during the Battle of the Bulge, and the 9th Army remained with Montgomery until the end of the war.

During the Russian Civil War the US sent the 339th Infantry Regiment as part of the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia (aka the Polar Bear Expedition) consisting of 5,000 soldiers from SEP 1918 to JUL 1919, and they actually fought against the Soviets during their time in Arkhangelsk. There was also the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia which sent 7,950 soldiers to Eastern Russia for about 19 months from SEP 1918 to APR 1920.

If the US or the UK sent a few spare regiments, brigades or even a division to the USSR like the Free French example that I posted earlier, it may not have been an overwhelming show of force, but at least it could be something to show the Soviets that the Allies were trying.

The US/UK troops would not fight under the Soviet flag, but would fight as part of a Soviet Army Group like the example of the US II Corps in WW1.
Art wrote:
18 Jul 2020 08:29
Volyn wrote:
17 Jul 2020 22:47
1. If Lend-Lease materials could be brought to the USSR via Murmansk or Iran, why didn't the US or UK commit any military forces to fight the Germans on the Eastern Front?
Because they didn't have much forces available in 1941-42 (sending 25-30 divisions Stalin was asking for was simply impossible) and any such commitment could only be made at expense of the African Front and prospective invasion to Europe. Several division wouldn't make much difference anyway and there was a large chance of a second St. Valerie. One should also consider problems with supply and communications. I believe, employment of some air force strength at Caucasus would be the most realistic scenario.

2. The Free French sent Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen and they used Soviet fighter aircraft/weaponry; was it not possible for either the US or UK to have done something similar, perhaps by sending armored troop regiments and supplied them with Soviet armor?
I don't think that there was a problem with finding Soviet personnel for Soviet armor.
3. Could Italy have been bypassed in 1943 after the Allies had cleared North Africa, and instead send those Divisions to the USSR in order to help speed up the liberation of Soviet territory until France could be invaded in 1944?
Italian campaign was pretty much predetermined when the decision to launch operation "Torch" was made in the summer of 1942. Because it would be illogical to stop operations in the Mediterranean region halfway. Anyway, it doesn't seem that there was much interest on both sides in 1943.
Perhaps the Soviets did not need extra tank crews, but the Allies did have plenty of trained pilots. The US and UK could have easily dispatched a few combat Squadrons or even an Air Wing to the Caucasus region in mid to late 1942 to assist during that campaign. If 1942 is too early, then by 1943 there was certainly enough air power in the MTO and ETO to potentially siphon off a few to the USSR.

The Soviets were already using US fighter planes like the P-39 Airacobra, US pilots could have either brought their own type of planes or they could have transitioned to Soviet aircraft like the French squadron did. A few extra ground attack squadrons could have had a sizable impact on local battlefields. If American combat forces could not be used, then perhaps a couple of US C-47 squadrons would be of service to assist with the Soviet logistics in a particular theater.

I believe it would have been beneficial for the US or UK to have transferred some military elements to participate with the Soviets on the Eastern Front. Even if these were to be only token forces, Stalin prized the symbolic efforts of the French and they have not been forgotten. Such activities could have even softened some of the Cold War animus that would eventually follow WW2.

When Operation Torch concluded, the Allies were not automatically resigned to invading Sicily. Many arguments have been made that the Italian campaign could be considered a complete waste, especially since the relative narrowness and hilly nature of the Italian mainland gave the advantage to the defender. The notion that Italy was the "soft underbelly of Europe" was dismissed once the Germans started moving forces into Italy to defend it. Although Italy did surrender, their impact on the Axis combat ability was already negligible after their North African losses, and the Allies effectively gave up taking the rest of Italy when they launched Operation Dragoon in AUG 1944.

The US forces assigned to the MTO could have instead been moved to the USSR, while UK naval and air forces acted as a containment force in the Med to bomb and harass the Axis forces in the region. All German forces that had been assigned to defend Italy after the invasion of Sicily would have simply remained in the USSR, either way Americans still would have fought them.

If the US had really focused on attacking the Eastern Front using the Italian designated units with the USSR, I believe they could have sped up the end of the war by 6 months to a year. There was more space for the Soviets to attack along, thus the defending Germans were always at the disadvantage. Invading and liberating France was not necessary to reach Berlin and end the war, if the Germans are fighting the USSR and the US on the same front they would have most likely weakened their Western Front to compensate for their rapidly increasing losses in the East. UK and US forces based in England could still conduct D-Day without having lost any combat effectiveness.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Yuri » 19 Jul 2020 17:38

Art wrote:
19 Jul 2020 12:30
Anyway, I agree that a presence of a handful of Allied divisions on the Eastern Front would produce only token effect.
War is a very simple thing and symbols have a huge significance on it and often acquire a material aspect and not a small one. The bombing of Berlin in August 1941 by the Soviet air force and the bombing of Tokyo in April 1942 by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle's pilots were purely symbolic events.
And both of these symbolic events had a colossal material aspect.
Second, American pilots could take part in the Soviet-European front not only symbolically.
One of the main air battles on the Soviet-European front took place in the spring of 1943 in the Caucasus.
Or for example, the participation of British troops (even a small force) in the Crimean (Kerch-Etilgon) landing operation would carry a colossal symbol. The Anglo-Americans did not appear on the Soviet-European front precisely because in the East of Europe there was a Soviet-European front, while in the West of the continent there was an anti-German front.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Volyn » 19 Jul 2020 21:58

Yuri wrote:
19 Jul 2020 17:38
War is a very simple thing and symbols have a huge significance on it and often acquire a material aspect and not a small one. The bombing of Berlin in August 1941 by the Soviet air force and the bombing of Tokyo in April 1942 by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle's pilots were purely symbolic events.
And both of these symbolic events had a colossal material aspect.
Second, American pilots could take part in the Soviet-European front not only symbolically.
One of the main air battles on the Soviet-European front took place in the spring of 1943 in the Caucasus.
Or for example, the participation of British troops (even a small force) in the Crimean (Kerch-Etilgon) landing operation would carry a colossal symbol.
Yuri I agree completely, US Air Force groups could have easily participated anywhere on the Eastern Front during a Spring or Summer offensive and then leave the region because they can fly in and out of the USSR unopposed. Soviet Forces already had the fuel and spare parts due to Lend-Lease.

Equipping an American Expeditionary Air Wing (using the Flying Tigers as a potential model) with the P-39 to use alongside the Soviets, should have been a symbolic "no-brainer". If Gen. Claire Chennault could operate a "rag-tag" team of mercenaries in China flying the P-40 Warhawk, with great effect against Japan, how could it not be replicated within the USSR?

The Soviets treated the French air regiment with great respect, almost like battlefield royalty, I would think that they would have done the same for any American unit and would even prioritize US needs ahead of their own, if necessary, and not even complain about it.

I also agree that some Allied forces could have participated in the Crimean operations and actually have been very useful; either of those symbolic options would have been an enormous boost to morale, propaganda, legends, etc. for many years afterwards. I believe Stalin may have held a particular grudge against the West because it took 3 years for D-Day and the opening of the Western Front. I am certain he would have been mollified to some extent if US military forces were actively engaged in battle against Axis forces in the USSR. This would have had long-term positive consequences if Americans fought and died liberating Soviet soil.
Yuri wrote:
19 Jul 2020 17:38
The Anglo-Americans did not appear on the Soviet-European front precisely because in the East of Europe there was a Soviet-European front, while in the West of the continent there was an anti-German front.
Maybe, but which side felt that way enough to prohibit any level of tactical cooperation on that front? Was it the leaders in the West or in the East that were ultimately responsible for a US/UK no-show?

It was a huge mistake by the West not to try to fight there, even on a small scale level. Roosevelt and Churchill were not ignorant about the power of symbolism, and both made significant use of it throughout the war. It seems that it would have been a benefit to all parties if this option had been pursued.
Last edited by Volyn on 19 Jul 2020 23:40, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Volyn » 19 Jul 2020 23:35

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Jul 2020 10:39
I doubt if the allies would have been happy with British or American fighting troops under Soviet command. A small number of airmen yes. Britain's last army or the majority of the Indian army no. US Troops under Soviet army discipline? What would be the US Public's tolerance for casualties inflicted by the NKVD on stragglers or retreating troops? Would the British tolerate communist cells infiltrating Indian army units? Eisenhower as a junior theatre commander on a quiet sector of the front directed by STAVKA?
This would not be the scenario, Eisenhower would have remained in command of the West, and any expeditionary US or UK force would have remained under their own disciplinary commands.

They would simply adjoin to whatever Soviet Army Group would be of realistic value. The expeditionary airmen scenario is the most likely option because the USSR was using American planes and the British were already nearby with access to all of the material in Iran. The Flying Tigers are the role model for any potential small scale employment, but even a large ground based American Expeditionary Force would have been useful anywhere along the Eastern Front.

Another example is to compare what the US 1st Armored Division accomplished while it was employed in Italy from 28 OCT 1943 - 2 MAY 1945. During this time it had sustained total battle casualties of 7,096 soldiers, and it advanced only to the Po Valley, well short of Germany. If instead, the 1st AD had been fighting under the command of a Konev or Zhukov led Army Group during that same time period, they would have been far more combat effective simply due to the change in terrain - tanks fighting in hills or mountains is a bad combination.

It is the inherent responsibility of any commander to make the most use of their potential. Therefore, the US and UK war leadership should have been more amenable to the idea of using mixed-use Battle Groups to be employed on the Eastern Front. If Churchill was reluctant to attack the Germans and prolong the inevitable mass use of British forces again, then it should have been an appealing concept to ship a few battle ready units to the USSR and give Stalin the appearance that he got what he wanted.

Soviet forces did not employ any NKVD "special activities" against the French regiment, and they would not do so to American or British forces either. As for potential pro-Communist sympathies and exposure to propaganda, most Americans would not have understood it then, just as they do not understand it now. I think real-life exposure to the Communist reality would have made them less susceptible, like a vaccination. American exposure to the realities of Fascism left a sobering impact upon all, thus affecting domestic and international politics thereafter.
Sheldrake wrote:
19 Jul 2020 10:39
Conceptually, WW2 was a large scale siege with an inferior number of Germans on the inside. Not dissimilar to the US Civil War. As a strategic principle it makes sense to engage the surrounded and out numbered enemy on as many fronts as possible, forcing the outnumbered Germans to spread their forces. It is what happened in the US Civil War with Scott's anaconda strategy. It made sense for the allies to engage the Germans on as many theatres as possible. Front the German point of view everything was the ETO. Germans tied up in the Balkans and Italy were as engaged as if they were on the eastern front. Knocking out Italy tied down a lot of Germans in the Balkans.

In July 1943 the invasion of Sicily with seven allied divisions had a decisive impact on the battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. This was the 1943 German summer offensive and the last chance the Germans had to win the war on the Eastern Front. Hitler called of the operation because of the threat to Southern Europe and the risk of Italian defection. At that time, we now know the Germans were winning the battle in terms of tank losses. Was there anywhere on the Eastern front where the same number of allied soldiers and M4 tanks have had that impact?
The forces that were withdrawn from the East and sent to Italy were not exclusively engaged at Kursk, and the fact that so many were moved to Italy only shows that the US would have fought them anyways. It would have been more advantageous to fight them alongside the Soviets then to engage them in terrain that was strategically worthless and did not help with the invasion of Germany. Italy was just dead weight carried on the German's back by 1943, they were fully contained on their own territory by then and they had no naval or air capacity anymore. There was no useful industrial basin for Germany to rely on because they did not allow Italy to build their war equipment.

Operation Dragoon was a damning testament to the recognized futility in attacking Southern Germany via Italy, making the entire campaign a waste of time and effort. The Germans stationed there would have been stationed elsewhere, fight them where the terrain and Allies are better suited for mobile offensives. Once the Allies effectively left the Italian campaign to itself and started fighting in France we can see how quickly the German forces began to disintegrate. They were caught in open French, Belgian, Dutch and German countrysides, perfect venues for Allied armored forces to fight in. If the MTO forces had gone to the Ukrainian Front instead, the results would have been the same, just on a larger scale since it was a far more target rich environment.

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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by Art » 20 Jul 2020 09:43

Volyn wrote:
19 Jul 2020 15:16
Perhaps the Soviets did not need extra tank crews
They needed tank crews, but it was easier to train their own.
When Operation Torch concluded, the Allies were not automatically resigned to invading Sicily.
Probably they thought this way in July 42, but it turned out that this decision resulted in huge inertia which affected allied plans for more than a year. The campaign in Tunisia ended in mid-May 1943, there was hardly enough time to extricate forces involved and employ them elsewhere until the end of the summer period. Invasion of Sicily and then mainland Italy seemed the most realistic option.
Many arguments have been made that the Italian campaign could be considered a complete waste, especially since the relative narrowness and hilly nature of the Italian mainland gave the advantage to the defender. The notion that Italy was the "soft underbelly of Europe" was dismissed once the Germans started moving forces into Italy to defend it.
US Army top brass would probably agree with that as they saw Italy as a detraction from their "straight line" strategy (Atlantic-Britain-France-Germany). Yet for this reason exactly they would be even less receptive to an even further detraction to the Eastern Front.
The US and UK could have easily dispatched a few combat Squadrons or even an Air Wing to the Caucasus region in mid to late 1942 to assist during that campaign. If 1942 is too early, then by 1943 there was certainly enough air power in the MTO and ETO to potentially siphon off a few to the USSR.
I agree that employment of Allied air force was the most realistic option. For reasons of logistics that force would be most easy to operate in the Far North (Murmansk) or in the South (Caucasus). Possible tasks for the Murmansk force could include German shipping along the Norwegian coast, nickel mines at Petsamo and fighter protection of the Murmansk port. Possible tasks for the Caucasus force - Axis shipping in the Black Sea, Romanian oil fields, fighter protection of Soviet ships and port. These were areas where some important material results could be achieved.

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