Importance of the Med. Theatre

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ljadw
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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by ljadw » 21 Aug 2009 17:40

Dili wrote:It is difficult to rate Mediterranean Theatre.

What Britain could have do? Duplicate Bomber Command? Invest in rockets and make a British V2?
Several more Dieppe Raids?

Concerning German submarines in Mediterranean they sunk 2 Aircraft carriers and a Battleship plus more damage to many ships, there is a discussion to be made if sinking Merchants would be better for Germans but the case isn't clear cut.


I think Mediterranean was the mother of Western Europe Warfaring. I think it was crucial in two points: Training for Allies - but it could have been much worse for them . And putting Italy out of War in a period when Italian Industry was correcting their mistakes and making worthwhile products, when Italian Commanders were much better than the Fascist and Royal cronies of War start and Italian units were fighting much more efficiently.
Off-course the Middle East was the only Theater of Operations Britain had ,but the reason for the fighting was that Italy declared war,otherwise no fighting .The fighting in North Africa had an indirect effect on the British war effort :the closing-down of the Mediterranean,and the British had to use the long route via South Africa. An other indirect effect was that ,the bulk of the British army beying tied in North Africa ,Overlord was imposible till the war in North Africa was over.Concerning the training:this view will not hold water:the bulk of the US forces for Overlord arrived directly from the US in the UK in 1944 without any war experience.Concerning Italy:in 1940 the Italian war effort was abominable,the same in 1941,1942,1943 and the Italian war industry :neglectable .

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Robert Rojas
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RE: Importance Of The Mediterranean Theatre?

Post by Robert Rojas » 22 Aug 2009 05:31

Greetings to both citizen "ljadw" and the community as a whole. Well sir, in respect to your installment of Friday - August 21, 2009 - 12:39pm, old Uncle Bob would like to expand upon your entry and provide brother Cardinal Baseball's general readership with the appropriate WORLD WAR II FORUMS web address which specifically touches upon brother brndirt1's MEDITERRANEAN-O-CENTRIC THEATRE thread. The web address in question is http://www.ww2f.com/what-if/32362-yes-n ... ter-3.html and the time stamp is Wednesday - August 05, 2009 - 08:57pm. Brother brndirt's signature goes by HAPPY TRAILS, CLINT. I hope this little insert provides a bit of contextual insight on the technical source of your imported thread. Incidentally, old yours truly has reviewed brother brndirt's WORLD WAR II FORUM'S thread from a number of angles and I've yet to determine if his position is PRO, CON or NEUTRAL on the relative importance of the Mediterranean Theatre. Rhetorically speaking, the finer nuances of language notwithstanding, have I missed something here? Well, that's my latest two cents worth on this now resurrected topic of interest - for now anyway. In anycase, I would like to bid you a copacetic day no matter where you just might happen to find yourself on Terra Firma.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it" - Robert E. Lee

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Telos » 19 Sep 2009 10:22

It's my understanding that pre war British strategy (principally the Royal Navy's interest) planned to more or less abandon the central Mediterranean - as longs as both 'ends' were securely 'bottled up' (Gibraltar and Alexandria) a protracted and costly battle for control of the central Med against powerful Italian air and naval forces was considered strategically unsound . Had any such policy been implemented the consequences for the war would have been quite profound and unknowable , the British resources released could have made a crucial difference in the defence of its Far East Empire (possibly even deterring Japan from making war?) and the Axis forces freed up could equally have made a significant difference in other theatres .

Mussolini's opportunist entry into the war on the back of France's defeat and his ill-fated invasions of Egypt and Greece effectively forced Britain's hand in this matter however , instead of the Med becoming the backwater it could have been the threat to Egypt (and as a consequence the Empire's vital Middle East oil supply) became urgent and unavoidable . Britain had little other choice but to fight a costly Mediterranean campaign once the scale of Italian ambition became evident , the fact that German and US forces would eventually also be drawn into the conflict (against their will in both cases) seems inevitable now with hindsight .

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Sep 2009 11:28

Hi Guys,

Apart from a few weeks of demoralizing defeat in France in May-June 1940 and Greece in April 1941, the British Army had nowhere else to gain combat experience against the European Axis except North Africa. Similarly, the US Army got its first combat experience against them in North Africa. (It also supplied France with most of the forces it fielded at the front from 1943.)

I would suggest that the North African theatre was inadvertently vital to the Anglo-Americans in that without it they would have faced landing on the continent of Europe without a single division with extended combat experience in their entire armies and almost no battle experience of modern combined operations.

In effect, Rommel ran a two-year, live-fire, training course for numerous Anglo-American formations, that would not otherwise have got any experience before conducting continental operations in Europe. From this point of view, it is probably as well that the British did not drive the Italians from Libya in late 1940/early 1941.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by ljadw » 19 Sep 2009 14:46

Sid Guttridge wrote:Hi Guys,

Apart from a few weeks of demoralizing defeat in France in May-June 1940 and Greece in April 1941, the British Army had nowhere else to gain combat experience against the European Axis except North Africa. Similarly, the US Army got its first combat experience against them in North Africa. (It also supplied France with most of the forces it fielded at the front from 1943.)

I would suggest that the North African theatre was inadvertently vital to the Anglo-Americans in that without it they would have faced landing on the continent of Europe without a single division with extended combat experience in their entire armies and almost no battle experience of modern combined operations.

In effect, Rommel ran a two-year, live-fire, training course for numerous Anglo-American formations, that would not otherwise have got any experience before conducting continental operations in Europe. From this point of view, it is probably as well that the British did not drive the Italians from Libya in late 1940/early 1941.

Cheers,

Sid.
Sid,good points ,on the other hand ...there were 22 US divisions stationed in the UK on june 6 ,how many had already combat experience ? 9 arrived in 1944 ,but I do not know if they came from Italy of directly from the USA . but you are right that a lot of generals and staff officers gained the necessary experience in North Africa and Italy,experience that was indespensable ,otherwise we would had a D Day with not only geen troops,but also with green commanders . I think the same point appliesalso for the british troops . Cheers

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Mar 2013 12:33

Hi Ljadw,

I was just looking at "Draftee Division" about the US 88th Infantry Division. Apparently combat experienced men from the North African campaign were sent to assess it and offer advice on combat techniques even before it left the USA. It seems likely that this was the rule, rather than the exception.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Kingfish
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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Kingfish » 01 Mar 2013 17:37

ljadw wrote:there were 22 US divisions stationed in the UK on june 6 ,how many had already combat experience ? 9 arrived in 1944 ,but I do not know if they came from Italy of directly from the USA .
1st infantry
9th Infantry
2nd Armored
most of 82nd airborne

Interesting enough, although Op Dragoon was much smaller than Overlord it featured a far greater percentage of veteran formations. The three US divisions and a significant portion of the French had seen months of heavy combat in Sicily and Italy prior to setting foot on French soil.
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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by tackleberry6 » 01 Mar 2013 20:12

ljadw wrote:Not knowing how to use my unpacked scanner :( ,the following from WW 2 forum(Yes or no Germans take Gibraltar ):British oil imports in 1939 :46.2% Carribean 30.8% Middle East 19.2% USA the rest came from Rumania. With Italy entering in the war in june 1940,and the cental Med. a war zone,middle east oil became more expensive since it had to be shipped around the Cape .In consequence,by 1942,no middle east oil was sent to the home islands ,both Persian and Iraqi oil production/ refining was scaled back short term (civil unrest didn't help )and that which was produced was 'used' in 'house',i.e. the MTO,plus some sent to India ,especially after the loss of the Far East oil producers:NEI,Burma,Borneo and Malaya to the Japanese. So this is the picture by 1942 : 60 % US 40 % Trinidad,Venezuela and Mexico . By 1944,79 % of Britain's oil imports would be from the USA ;21 % from the Caribbean,as they were cheaper. The Suezcanal have been of no import to the UK for supplying the home islands( they had been shipping over 90% of all goods around the Cape since the opening days of the war ),since Italy was holding Ethiopya and 'air-patrolling" the southern entrance to Suez, only warships and supplyships for the troops in Egypt used the Canal,the UK didn't receive any substantial percentage of their oil from their holdings in the ME after 194O .The British Isles themselves got most of their oiland petro-products from the US ,still the world's leading oil exporterat the moment .The US supplied(from our own fields)nearly 75 % from all the oiland its products used by all the western allies in the entire war . Note how very different the petro-world was then !The Persian gulf was not nearly as significant an oil producer in WW II as it is now . In 1939 ,the US accounted for 60,4% of GLOBAL PETROLEUM PRODUCTION,and Latin America for another 15.3 %,so more than 75 % of the world's petroleum production was in the new world (Western Hemisphere ). The USSR accounted for the largest chunk of the remaining production:10.6 % . Irak and Iran:5.4 %. NEI (Dutch East Indies ):2.7 %.Rumania: 2.4 % Malaya,Burma and Btitish Borneo:2 % .The Arabian and Noert African oil fields had not yet been found nor developped . UK imports of petroleum early in the war were running about 11-12 million metric tons.About half of this coulf be satisfied from the Empire sources alone.After june 1940 they could get as much as they wanted from the NEI,wich could have covered the rest of the Commonwealth states and Dominions in the Pacific.But the US is a lot closer to the home islands and they could get high qualityrefined products from there as well ,so they probably got as much as they could afford from the US . The British had been sending between 85 and 90 % of their commercial shipping around the "Horn of Africa "since the outbreak of war, both to anf from their dominion and commonweath partners in the Pacific Area. The Suez Canal connection was most generally used for military shipments to the troops in Egypt and the RN in the Med.,but the Levant area and eastern Meditarranean islands could be as easely supplied from Syria,Iran and Iraq. The Uk had also cordite production plants for propellants established in Irak,India ,Egypt ,Pakistan and Australia .If gibraltar or Malta had fallen,they wouldn't need to be supplied as they were historically,and that was the bulk of the materialshipped though Gibraltar .If no Malta or Gibraltar to supply,it would be no loss to the RN in the eastern Mediterranean,and the German supply across the Med. would still be in jeopardy from intercepted "Ultra " messages and air attack from British held positions in the eastern Levant,as they were historically . The loss of either Gibraltar or Malta would have been another blow to the British ego,just ass the loss of the Suez would have been .Just as the loss of Greece and Crte were ego insults,but of little military importance . BY COURTESY OF BRNDIRT 1
The numbers on the British imports are interesting but I still have to wonder what could have happened after a successful drive on the middle east oil fields by the Germans and Italians combined with a expanded U-boat comittment of say 20-24 boats off the east coast of the U.S in the early days. As it stood 6 German subs inflicted a scary amount of damage in the initial wave. Suddenly the 30.8% Middle East oil imports might have been needed at a moment when thier fields are getting over run. Although we see British oil imports for 1939 and then 1942 I wonder what those import numbers are for 1940-41. I don't think a Mediteranean strategy alone was important, but if combined with a good overall strategy at the right time it could have changed the course of the war for the worst. Germans and Italians occupying the Middle East means no later supply lifeline running through Iran for the Soviet Union. It would deny the British 30.8% oil imports while thier own imports from America where diminished by a U-boat war and Japan ready to threaten Imports from the Dutch East Indies.

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by pugsville » 02 Mar 2013 07:12

Not so important as

(1) the area contained no resources what so ever
(2) The Suez was NOT part of allied shipping routes.
(3) By 1942 the middle east supplied almost none of Britain's oil
(4) The Med to Basra Iraq is 1500kms (Berlin Moscow 1800km, Tripoli Cairo 2000km) it's a very long way with incredibly bad infrastructure to support armies let alone get oil back from. The Axis simply did not have the shipping (and could not ship in face of the RN in the Indian ocean and bases like Aden anyway) the railways through turkey were really bad and would take many month and much expenditure to improve. Like in Egypt were the axis attacked from a poor logistical base against a good logistical base, the same repeats in the Persian gulf, with Allied forces able to ship into supplies and reinforcements relatively unhindered, while the Axis would use most of their truck load in fuel just getting to the front. Supporting a army on the Persian Gulf from Italy would be harder again than supporting them in north Africa. Taking the Suez does not really get the axis ANYTHING at all directly.

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Sid Guttridge » 02 Mar 2013 11:56

Hi Pugsville,

Just to reinforce a couple of your points;

1) After the entry of Italy into the war, the metropolitan UK got almost all its oil from across the Atlantic - particularly Venezuela, via refineries in the Dutch West Indies, and its own colony of Trinidad. Middle Eastern oil was almost all used within the Indian Ocean Theatre, including Egypt and the Western Desert.

2) The Germans estimated that closing the Mediterranean to British merchant shipping, thereby forcing them to use the Cape of Good Hope route, cost the Allies about 1,000,000 tons in extra shipping needs. This was achieved without taking Suez.

I think the earlier quote from ljadw may be in error in over emphasizing US oil imports to the UK. My impression was that, although it was the world's biggest oil producer, the USA consumed almost all its own production and even some from Canada and Venezuela.

During WWII Venezuela was the world’s largest oil exporter. The only larger producers were the two major Allied powers, the USA and USSR, which were self-sufficient. However, the third major Allied power, the UK, was almost entirely dependent on oil imports from Venezuela and the Persian Gulf. When the war reached the Middle East, Persian Gulf production became fully absorbed supporting the British war effort locally, leaving the British Isles even more heavily dependent on Venezuelan production. By 1941 the UK got 70% of its oil from Venezuela. It also got a significant amount from its own colony of Trinidad.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by ljadw » 04 Mar 2013 18:53

In 1944,the US produced some 1.680 million barrels of crude oil (almost 200 million ton),they exported 126 million barrels and Britain imported 20 million ton of petroleum products (which is larger than crude oil).

The problem is now :what is the meaning of "exported"? Is this including Lend Lease deliveries?

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by phylo_roadking » 04 Mar 2013 21:54

Following on from Sid's much earlier point...
Apart from a few weeks of demoralizing defeat in France in May-June 1940 and Greece in April 1941, the British Army had nowhere else to gain combat experience against the European Axis except North Africa. Similarly, the US Army got its first combat experience against them in North Africa. (It also supplied France with most of the forces it fielded at the front from 1943.)

I would suggest that the North African theatre was inadvertently vital to the Anglo-Americans in that without it they would have faced landing on the continent of Europe without a single division with extended combat experience in their entire armies and almost no battle experience of modern combined operations.

In effect, Rommel ran a two-year, live-fire, training course for numerous Anglo-American formations, that would not otherwise have got any experience before conducting continental operations in Europe. From this point of view, it is probably as well that the British did not drive the Italians from Libya in late 1940/early 1941.
...the Mediterranean theatre also drove Allied technological development through constant contact with the enemy ;) The Germans' armour development was being driven both by contact with the Allies' "best" in North Africa...but also - and perhaps more importantly - on the Russian front...

...but the only real point of contact for Allied progressively-developed tank designs was North Africa. It could be argued that Allied LL types on the Eastern front could have provided some feedback...but likely slow, not learned directly by the Allied nations' of origin in the white heat of combat.
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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by pugsville » 05 Mar 2013 08:29

I think the Sherman was designed and slated for production before the Lee/Grant saw action (not saying the british development was not more shaped by their north african experience, though I have read through US documents produced after the french 1940 campaign about lessons that could be learned, so you dont always have to fight yourself to potentially learn stuff, just it tends to be more salutary ) though experience is the desert should have been an important spur to better training & tactical methods, most of it was unfortunately not well assimilated by US and British forces outside of NA (other than subsequent use of those units elsewhere). But the experience and development is indirect argument it was important coz thats were they were fighting rather than any inherent strategic value of the theatre itself.

It was important as the place Britain was fighting and defeat and loss of the suez would have had pretty large morale implications.

Just in of itself it wasnt very strategically important the forces were not that large, no valuable resources were located in the region,

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Mar 2013 12:09

Hiljadw,

Another problem in defining "exported" is that much of Venzuelan oil was extracted by US companies. It may be that it was re-exported to the UK, rather than exported.

Perhaps more relevantly to the Mediterranean Theatre is the fact that all Spanish oil came from Venezuela after the US entered the war (and most of it before). This (and the fact that almost all Spanish food imports came from Argentina) gave the Royal Navy a stranglehold over the Spanish economy. This was arguably the most important factor in keeping Spain out of the Axis camp and this, in turn, prevented the Axis from closing the Mediterranean to the British at the Atlantic end in 1940/41.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Importance of the Med. Theatre

Post by merdiolu » 14 Mar 2013 09:39

Fall of Egypt to an Axis force numbered less than British 8th Army would have been a devestating loss to prestige of British Empire and Allied morale after Singapore debacle. If Panzer Armee reached Nile and Suez Churchill's coalition goverment might have fallen ( they already hold a vote of no confidence in parliment after loss of Tobruk ) Britain might have quit. Cutting Suez would ensure that necessary shipping capacity to open up a Second Front would take much longer than anticipated. That might have lead huge change in Allied strategy. Americans especially General Marshall and MacArthur lobby preferred to concentrate on Pacific for some time unless a desperate but suicidal attempt made to land on France. The fact that British continued to hold on Middle East even after defeats in Gazala and Tobruk showed them "Germany First" Strategy was viable.

To their luck though Axis strategy on Med was erratic at best and plus resources allocated to Panzer Armee was never enough for them to capture Egypt or Suez. Actually I consider desert war in Libya / Egypt was the best thing hapened to Allied cause to train and bled their forces. Commonwealth and American soldiers learned their trade from hard but non vital campaign (unknown to them ) in an open terrain battlefield. Commanders became veterans , gained self confidence and bad ones were singled out.
Last edited by merdiolu on 14 Mar 2013 12:49, edited 1 time in total.

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