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

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daveshoup2MD
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Re: Why didn't the US or UK fight on the Eastern Front?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 23 Jan 2022 00:51

EwenS wrote:
22 Jan 2022 17:37
From June 1941 until the end of 1942 British fears for the Middle East (that part east of Suez to Iran that is often forgotten about) revolved around
1. A Soviet collapse with the Germans striking through the Caucasus into the Persian Gulf region and the possible loss of its oil resources; and
2. A German strike through Turkey, either with or without the support of that nation, into the Palestine region and then south towards the Suez Canal.

Various plans were formulated that, at different points in time saw British forces entering the Caucasus to defend Soviet oilfields or into Anatolia to stem the passage of German troops through Turkey. Eventually this evolved into a defensive strategy on the so called "Northern Front". Events however first in the Far East in Dec 1941 and then in Libya/Egypt in early 1942 saw the forces available for such actions steadily reduced. Fortunately the Soviets were able to stop the Germans in their southerly push in late 1942 and El Alamein saw them stopped in the Western Desert. And Turkey stayed neutral and Germany didn't invade.

Various reinforcements were planned to go to the ME in late 1941 in preparation for potential operations on this Northern Front. For example, shipping from the UK was being sought for 2 infantry divisions. One division, the 18th, did sail but was diverted to Singapore on the outbreak of war with Japan. Similarly the RAF had a Wing of 4 Hurricane squadrons that left the UK on convoy WS12Z at the beginning of Nov 1941 earmarked for Iraq and potentially the Caucasus, something that had only been revealed to a few of its more senior officers. Instead these units too were diverted to the Far East while en route in Dec 1941.

This article lays out some of the strategy and plans involved.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/26070631?r ... b_contents

Iraq, Persia etc was originally part of GHQ India until mid 1941 following the Iraq Rebellion etc. It was then transferred to Middle East Command and eventually, in Aug 1942, to a separate Persia and Iraq Command.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persia_and_Iraq_Command
It's worth noting that the only reason the 18th Division was even able to get to the Indian Ocean 1941 early enough to become what amounted to the British strategic reserve in the theater was the USN.

That being said, the available British forces in the "ME/PAI" region were not negligible; by the end of 1941, the Indian 8th and 10th divisions were both present (although without all the elements they had for North Africa and/or Italy, of course, at which point they were replaced by additional British/Indian divisions) as were elements of the Indian 6th division, and various other Imperial and Allied elements under British command. Depending upon events, presumably the British could have put a strong corps+ into northwestern Iran if necessary, or (less likely) Mosul or the Antioch/Hatay area; probably not much more until later in 1942, however.

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