Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

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Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 02 Jun 2009 13:58

To all,

Ljubljana Gap

It is time to examine the Ljubljana Gap and the surrounding myths and try to find the truth. Here is the myth which has been repeated often and I just happened to find it printed in the book entitled “The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory, 1874-1932” (ISBN 0-316-54503-1) by William Manchester,
Page 20:
. . .At his insistence amphibious assaults were attempted on Rhodes and other Greek islands. All failed. In 1944 he even wanted to seize the tip of Sumatra, which was wholly without strategic value. George C. Marshall said, “His planning was all wishing and guessing.” Actually, it wasn’t. Had the combined chiefs adopted his grand proposal to sail up the Adriatic and invade Europe through the Ljubljana Gap, some military historians believe, British Tommies and American GIs, not Russians, would have been the liberators of Budapest, Prague, Vienna, and Warsaw, with all that would have entailed for the postwar world. But by then his stock had fallen because he had championed so many impractical schemes. 24 (footnote 24, Liddel Hart in Stansky 95; Irrepressible 234; Moran 834)

When this is mentioned in conversation I almost always say “How in the hell could we do this?” “We are going to somehow cut the Russians out of the fighting and now we, the Western Allies are going to fight the entire German Army instead of just a portion of it! How?!”

So while reading this book, “Masters and Commanders” (ISBN: 978-0-06-122857-5) by Andrew Roberts. I came across several instances where the British proposed forcing the Ljubljana Gap and capturing Vienna and the discussions and arguments that followed. So that I don’t get accused of being bias I will just type in the text so that everyone can form their own opinion.

Page 490:
The day after D-Day, Alexander reported that if he were left with his twenty-seven divisions in Italy, and not lose any to Anvil, he could break through the Apennines into the Po Valley, take eighteen divisions north of Venice and force the Ljubljana Gap between Italy and northern Yugoslavia. Once there, he stated in his memoirs, “the way led to Vienna, an object of great political and psychological value”. This prospect appealed to Churchill and Clark, but to very many others. Brooke told Churchill that with Alpine topography and winter weather, “even on Alex’s optimistic reckoning. . . we should have three enemies instead of one.” 15 (Bryant, Triumph in the West, p.223)

Page 517: (Description of the terrain and transportation network.)
. . If the British wished to get entangled in Balkan intrigues and struggles, Marshall seemed to be saying, he might provide some landing craft but would otherwise leave it entirely up to them.
“It was a dazzling idea, this grand project of reaching Vienna before our Russian allies,” wrote General Alexander in his memoirs, “and we discussed it informally at my headquarters.” Yet taking the route to Vienna along the so-called Ljubljana Gap involved horrendous difficulties. The “Gap” was a col 2,000 feet high and 30 miles wide leading to the Save Valley. Between the Save and Vienna is the Karawanken mountain range, with 6,000 foot peaks through which only two roads descended into the Klagenfurt valley. After that there were 200 miles of roads through yet more narrow valleys. “The powers of recovery of the German forces were a matter of record,” points out Sir Michael Howard. They would be falling back along their own lines of communication; at the Ljubljana Gap they would have had a front to defend about one quarter of the length of the Pisa-Rimini Line. . . Finally, the distance from Rome to Vienna is some six hundred miles-about three times the distance from Naples to Rome which it had taken the Allies six months to cover.”16 (Howard, Mediterranean Strategy, p. 66) It seems surprising that a strategist of Brooke’s eminence could ever have proposed such a scheme to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, though not that he should later have denied doing so. He had sarcastically criticized Churchill’s Jupiter plan for proposing to “advance victoriously over one mountain range after another” in northern Norway, yet that is roughly what he himself now advocated in the push to Vienna.
Rear-Admiral Morison explained that the Ljubljana Gap, “narrow tortuous, dominated by mountain peaks, would have been a tactical cul-de-sac”. 17 (Morison, American Contributions, p. 34) A railway that ran through a large number of tunnels could have been easily destroyed, while the two-lane road could have supported two divisions at most. Furthermore, if it turned into a race to Vienna and Budapest, the Russians would comfortably have won it from the north-east. Even with a Trieste landing taking place in September at the earliest, the Western Allies had run out of time, as the Russians were already in Bucharest.

Page 540:
. . .Furthermore, the Ljubljana Gap concept was effectively killed off – with the help of Brooke, who had by then had time to examine the operation more closely – and the British were also persuaded to go on the defensive in Italy and move five divisions from there to fight under Eisenhower.

Page 574:
Although Brooke must take immense credit for steering Churchill off his favoured but flawed operations such as Jupiter (northern Norway) and Culverin (northern Sumatra), it was a post-war fiction of Brooke’s that he had not fully supported the Dodecanese and Ljubljana Gap schemes, at least at some stages of the policy-making process. It is clear from the records that he had, and his subsequent attempts to rewrite history are just as culpable as Churchill’s.

Page 577:
. . . As for the hare-brained plan to capture Vienna via the Ljubljana Gap, Brooke swiftly changed his mind and joined Roosevelt and Marshall in opposing Churchill.

The following comes from the book entitled: “Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1943-1944” by Maurice Matloff. This part of the U.S. Army in World War II series, and you can find it here: http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/ ... m#Contents

Page 469:
In the meantime, in Washington, the JWPC proceeded to examine the four choices and came out strongly for the retention of ANVIL. In their view, ANVIL. would open ports more quickly, help OVERLORD more directly by drawing off or-pinning down German troops, and make the most effective use of French troops.7

Army planners were inclined to agree with this estimate, especially if OVERLORD were going forward according to plan. If OVERLORD should bog down, an operation via Sete, Toulouse, and Bordeaux or the direct seizure of St. Nazaire and Nantes and a later move against Bordeaux might be in order. OPD's Strategy Section doubted that Wilson had enough forces to carry out his favored plan-operations against Istria followed by an advance through northern Italy toward Ljubljana Gap. In addition, the winter weather and the poor line of communications would make it difficult to support such an operation, the French would very likely protest the use of their troops in the Balkans, and the relief of pressure on OVERLORD would be slight. The Strategy
Section did not ignore the political implications of invading the Balkans, for the possibility of becoming involved in civil wars in Greece and Yugoslavia was taken into account. As Colonel Billo, chief of the section, warned, "Had we adopted a strategy to defeat Germany politically and economically then the suggested operation might be considered. Remember, too, the Austrians held off the Italians for 4 years in World War I.8

Page 470:
While the Army planners were mulling over the Mediterranean possibilities, Marshall had flown from England to Italy to confer with Wilson and his commanders. Marshall evidently had some success in convincing Wilson of the urgent need of the Allies for a major port through which some forty to fifty divisions waiting in the United States could be sent to OVERLORD, since on 19 June the Mediterranean commander came out in favor of ANVIL with a 15 August target date provided the CCS agreed with Marshall that the need for a port was paramount. Otherwise, Wilson would prefer to push on in Italy toward Ljubljana Gap and southern Hungary.9

Page 471-472:
The President would not yield. He immediately replied to Churchill unequivocally: "The exploitation of 'OVERLORD,' our victorious advances in Italy, an early assault on Southern France, combined with the Soviet drives to the west-all as envisaged at Teheran-will most surely serve to realize our object-the unconditional surrender of Germany." Roosevelt reminded Churchill that Stalin had favored ANVIL and that they would have to inform the Soviet leader of any change in plans. The President clearly set forth his position on political objectives: "I agree that the political considerations you mention are important factors, but military operations based thereon must be definitely secondary to the primary operations of striking at the heart of Germany." To conduct an operation against Istria, he went on, would be to disregard two important considerations-the agreed grand strategy for an early defeat of Germany, and the time factor involved in a campaign to
[471]
________________________________________
debouch from the Ljubljana Gap into Slovenia and Hungary. It was doubtful whether, on purely logistical grounds, more than six divisions could, "within a decisive period," be put into the fighting beyond the Ljubljana Gap. "I cannot agree," he declared, "to the employment of United States troops against Istria and into the Balkans, nor can I see the French agreeing to such use of French troops." If ANVIL were not launched, the whole question of French troops would have to be reopened. The President concluded:

At Teheran we agreed upon a definite plan of attack. That plan has gone well so far. Nothing has occurred to require any change. Now that we are fully involved in our major blow history will never forgive us if we lost precious time and lives in indecision and debate. My dear friend, I beg you to let us go ahead with our plan.
Finally, for purely political considerations over here, I should never survive even a slight setback in "OVERLORD" if it were known that fairly large forces had been diverted to the Balkans.17
Years later a still-annoyed Churchill was to write, "It was his [the President's] objections to a descent on the Istrian peninsula and a thrust against Vienna through the Ljubljana Gap that revealed both the rigidity of the American military plans and his own suspicion of what he called a campaign 'in the Balkans.'" Churchill vigorously denied that anyone involved in these discussions had "ever thought of moving armies into the Balkans." On the other hand,
Istria and Trieste were, in the Prime Minister's opinion, strategic and political positions that "might exercise profound and widespread reactions, especially after the Russian advances."18

Map of Ljubljana Gap:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source...amp;t=p&z=8

Does anyone have access to an "estimate of the situation" or "appreciation" dealing with the plan to attack the Ljublijana Gap? It would be most interesting to read that document. When (date) did FM Brooke examine this plan and discover that it was not feasible? Who printed this myth into history? And why?


Mike

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 08 Jul 2009 18:36

To all,

For some reason the wrong map comes up for the Ljubljana Gap. So here it is again:
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source...amp;t=p&z=8

I hope this works.

Mike

Doesn't work will try this one!
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source= ... 56&t=p&z=8

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 11 Jul 2009 16:04

Thanks for those extracts from the books. They provide lot more clarity than the usual half baked statments on the subject one sees on these discussion boards. The remaks about the size of a army the Allies coul supply in this are are interesting. A couple years ago I took a quick look at the transportation & ports in ths region. my off the cuff estimate was a army half the size of that existing in Italy in 1944 could be supplied inland in the Balkans. A larger army would be required in the rear rebuilding the ports and transportation, and keeping the peace amoung the myriad nationalities and politcal factions. When the Germans abandon Greece a civil war started there imeadiately, which took over four years to settle. Imagine trying to advance a army group across the Balkans as a dozen different groups there shoot at each other.

Brookes change of favored strategy is not suprising. He thought attacking the Germans via France too difficult and costly and looked for alternatives. After the final commitment to Overlord was made he got behind the plan, and once the Neptune attack into Normandy had succeded he had little trouble recognizing that France provided the fastest route to the destruction of Germany. Lets see: North West Europe, a largely open country side with no mountain ranges, few hills only partially wooded, with lots of large ports, the heaviest railroad network in Europe, excellent automobile roads, a friendly population willing to join the fight. The Balkans, second rate ports, few paved highways, thin railroad system, native population determined to kill each other or any forigen army present, numerous mountain ranges, and three times the distance from the coast to the German industrial regions as from the French coast.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 14 Feb 2010 18:43

More quotes from various books I have read in the past couple of months.

Masters and Commanders, by Andrew Roberts. ISBN: 978-0-06-122857-5.

Page 463
Brooke added that, when he visited Italy that December, ‘The terrain defies description. It’s like the North-West Frontier; a single destroyed culvert can hold up an army for a day.’ ( I know this does not pertain to the Ljubljana Gap, but the terrain is similar, and it also in my mind shows how ridiculous it was to think that somehow Italy would be a major theater of war, even if conquered it leads. . Nowhere!)

The Business of War, the War Narrative of Major-General Sir John Kennedy. William Morrow and Company, New York, 1958. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 58-10565.

Page 332.
There are still hopes that Alexander may break up the German Army in Italy completely by a good hard punch on the Pisa line, or South of it. We are now examining his next move intensively.
Alexander wants to go on into Austria via Ljubljana. The objection to this is that he would arrive before the Julian Alps in September or October, with winter coming on, and only two roads for an advance. A big force would thus be immobilized unless the Germans were disintegrating-in which case Alexander would not need a big force. Therefore, the right course seems to be to give Alexander a free hand South of the Alps, then he can threaten the Julian front with small forces. His surplus forces should be used for two purposes:
(a) an amphibious operation against France (we have examined three possibilities, viz. Biscay, Sete, and Toulon; of these the last seems best in every way), and
(b) reinforcing Normandy.

Page 333
Winston is, meantime, very keen to push on to Vienna by the Julian Alps and “thrust in a dagger under the armpit”. The Julian operations are impossible unless the Germans are finished. 26th June. Cherbourg fell today. Alexander is still stuck at Trasimene.

The Mediterranean Strategy in the Second World War. By Michael Howard. Frederick A Praeger, Publishers, New York-Washington 1968. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-19851

Page 61-63
It does not appear that even at this stage the British Chiefs of Staff had any clear program for the further development of the Italian front, beyond drawing more German forces into the area and destroying them. But General Alexander, understandably elated by his victory, was developing a more ambitious program. On 7 June, three days after the fall of Rome, he reported the morale of his troops to be
‘irresistibly high. . . Neither the Apennines nor even the Alps should prove a serious obstacle to their enthusiasm and skill’. If he were left his full force of twenty-seven divisions, he claimed, he would be able to break through the Apennines to the Po valley, reach the river Piave north of Venice with eighteen divisions, and carry the ‘Ljubljana Gap’, through which the main road and railway ran from Italy into northern Yugoslavia.

Once through the so-called Ljubljana Gap [wrote Lord Alexander in his memoirs] the sway led to Vienna, an object of great political and psychological value. . . The terrain between the Trieste and the Drava river is mountainous, but not more so than much of Italy over which we had advanced successfully; and troops which could overcome a brave and stubborn enemy such as we had met in the Apennine ranges north of Florence would surely not be stopped by what we might find in Yugoslavia and beyond.’

This sanguine view, which was widely shared at general Alexander’s headquarters, (footnote 3) awoke no echo whatever in Washington. It was skeptically received even by the British Chiefs of Staff. President Roosevelt, refusing to abandon the South of France landings in favor of such an operation, suggested tactfully that General Alexander, ‘for several natural and very human reasons’ was underestimating the difficulties that lay ahead of him. General Brooke pointed out to the prime Minister
‘that even on Alex’s optimistic reckoning, the advance beyond the Pisa-Rimini line would not start till after September; namely, we should embark on a campaign through the Alps in the winter. . . If we took the season of the year and the topography of the country in league against us, we should have three enemies instead of one’. But in Mr. Churchill General Alexander found an enthusiastic supporter. Not only did the Prime Minister long to see what he described as ‘the most representative Army of the British Empire now in the field’ end up in a blaze of glory. He was now, for the first time, beginning to worry about the spread of Russian influence in Eastern Europe.

Footnote 3. See e.g. Marshal of the R.A.F. Sir John Slessor, The Central Blue (London 1957), p. 588. ‘As a matter of fact this was a very unduly optimistic appreciation, though I did not think so at the time-everyone in Italy was still too cock-a-hoop at the capture of Rome and no one foresaw the skilful and dogged defense that we had still to overcome

Page 65-66.
Yet by August the decision to divert forces from Italy to DRAGOON had already been taken. Mr. Roosevelt had given his final decision on 2 July. The decision may subsequently have been regretted on both sides of the Atlantic, but at no stage in the very thorough discussions which had preceded it had the desirability of forestalling the Russians in Central Europe been cited as an argument in favor of General Alexander’s plans. Nor were any serious calculations produced to show that these plans were feasible, and it may be doubted where any were ever made. The evidence of General Alexander himself does not suggest that they were.
It was a dazzling idea, this grand project of reaching Vienna before our Russian allies, and we discussed it informally at my headquarters. Yet it would have been premature to start planning such an operation before it was certain that we could reach the valley of the Po before the end of 1944.

Page 67-68.
The alternative to ANVIL-DRAGOON which the British Chiefs of Staff were urging on their American colleagues was thus not an operation to forestall the Russians in Vienna or the Balkans. I was a continuation of the battle of attrition in Italy. They desired, they told the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 26 June, that General Alexander should be allowed to ‘continue to develop the full power of his offensive in Italy with the object of engaging and destroying all German armies opposed to him‘. Even if such a battle had led to the total collapse of the German forces in Italy, a pursuit to Vienna through terrain where even comparatively small units could have imposed repeated delays, would have been a very difficult matter indeed. And with the Russian armies already spreading over Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary, with Yugoslavia already liberated by communist-led partisans who regarded the Allied armies with much suspicion and some dislike, it is hard to see how such an operation, even if successful, could have affected the post-war balance in South-Eastern Europe which the Western allies had already virtually accepted at Teheran. It was thus difficult to agree at any point with the judgment of General Mark Clark, who commanded the Allied ground forces under General Alexander, when he asserts that ‘the weakening of the campaign in Italy in order to invade Southern France instead of pushing on into the Balkans, was one of the outstanding political mistakes of the war’.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 14 Feb 2010 21:36

This one is from Michael Howard's book, cited above.
Page xi
Sir Arthur Bryant’s first volume provoked an equally powerful and nationalistic response from the other side of the Atlantic in Professor S. E. Morison’s American Contributions to the Strategy of World War II. But by this time a great deal more evidence had become available with the publication of British and American official histories and memoirs. The fears and political passions which had done so much to provoke the controversy in the first place were dying down, and a more balanced picture was emerging. By 1963 it was possible for an American scholar, Dr. Richard M. Leighton, to write:

We now know. . . that responsible British leaders never advocated an Allied invasion of the Balkan peninsula and that the ‘Balkans versus Western Europe’ controversy referred to by many post-war writers is a myth. . . The familiar stereotype that pictures the British as persistently maneuvering at the conference table and behind the scenes to weaken and postpone the cross-channel invasion, while striving to build up the Mediterranean Theater at its expense. . . is not consistent with the findings of post-war research.

The controversy which Wilmot provoked and to which Leighton refers centered around the conflicting claims of OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of North-West Europe, and the ‘Mediterranean strategy’ advocated by the British Chiefs of Staff. It is not my purpose to pronounce any new judgments on a controversy which is, as Leighton rightly says, no longer a live issue among scholars. But among a wider public many of the misconceptions to which Wilmot gave currency still enjoy considerable circulation.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 18 Feb 2010 11:44

Iirc from reading Wilmot a while back the point he raised was that if the Allied armies advancing from Italy could have removed German access to the Danube, iirc, this would cut off their access to various raw materials being shipped to them from the balkans and, with poss quite a bit of hyperbold, destroy their war industry. I take it the seizure of Vienna that you described in your first post is the more detailed position of what he was talking about?

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 18 Feb 2010 12:39

The Enigma,
Any historian that thinks that cutting the Danube River would of destroyed German's war industry may be delusional. When you get the chance type in the quote, I have never read anything like that and after reading hundreds of if not over a thousand books (I just did the math a 1,000 may be too many, close to 700 :P ) on military history, what I have found is that no one thing causes a nation to lose the war, usually they lose due to a 1,000 cuts, all of which have a cumulative effect which eventually causes collapse. What was Wilmot talking about?

"Enigma wrote: I take it the seizure of Vienna that you described in your first post is the more detailed position of what he was talking about?"

I have no idea, I don't think I have ever read his book and after reading posts on this forum his book may not be worth reading.

Mike

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 18 Feb 2010 14:59

Well it’s a good starting point, I did read it through about 5-6 years back so hopefully am not clouding his info with other stuff I have read over the years. I will get back to you will a full quote when I find it!

If I remember correctly there was mention of seizure of areas around the Danube would in fact cut off supply of raw material that was been shipped up that way that was vital to the war economy as well as allowing air bases closer to the industrial areas.

Although in retrospect it does seem a tad hyperbole: of course not being able to tell if such a move on the Danube would cut said supplies off/or even if they were in fact that vital (one would note that the Soviets did overrun the Balkans and the war kept on going) and of course air power – it hadn’t knocked out the German industry in the preceding years why the hell would it now?!

Edit: I also have the OH by General Jackson for the final years of the Italian campaign, it was put out in the 80s iirc so ill have a nose through that and see what he has to say on the matter.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 19 Feb 2010 00:34

Wilmot's initial comments on the loss of the Balkans comes from Speer, however at this point he has been talking about the Red Army advances before moving onto Germany economy.

Apparently Speer was asked if the German forces were to completely withdraw from the Balkans how would that effect the economy; assuming a line from the Alps-Sava to the Tiza, Speer concluded that there would be enough bauxite, copper, nickel and "most other light or non-ferrour metals to maintain" into 1946 ""though the loss of the chrome ore mines"... "and the stoppage of chrome supplies from Turkey"" would be of the largest concern. Chrome was expected to run out in Jan 1945 and shut down the armament industry. He apparently also suggested that these moves would bring the steel industry to collapse by September 1945 ... although with hindsight, not an issue.
(Wilmot, pp. 439-440)

Moving onto exploiting the "Ljubljana Gap", i would presume, he states Hitler's concern:

"Hitler ... appreciated full well the strategic importance of Northern Italy and the Upper Danube. He feared that from air bases in the Po Valley the Western Allies would be able to intensify their attacks on those war industries which had been moved to Central Europe beyond easy range of bombers based in Britain."

Apparently Hitler didnt want the British to link up with Tito and help engage his men there...

"The Balkans were so rich in raw materials vital to the German war economy that Hitler dared not leave them exposed to Allied invasion." Then some talk about how he didnt give two hoots about southern France but was ever so concerned over N.Italy and the Balkans

(Wilmot, p. 452)

It does seem a little odd; if my understanding is correct bombers based in the UK were able to strike into Eastern Germany while the bombers based in Italy and the Med were able to strike up to Berlin and as far east as Rumania ... so what gives, would the extra bases in N.Italy actually help that much?

On 7th June Alexander is quoted as saying "a golden opportunity of scoring a really decisive victory" was now available; Wilmot suggests that at this point the Germans were in rout heading for their next defensive line. The British chiefs apparently thought now was an excellent time to exploit the success of these victories rather than launch Anvil.(Wilmot, p. 449)

"The British had accepted this strategic policy [i.e. the Overlord/Anvil/leave the Balkans to the Soviets], but had continued to doubt whether decisive victory could be gained in the West, unless a powerful complementary offensive ere maintained in Italy to provide a constant threat to Southern Germany and the Balkans...... To Churchill, however, this plan had never made sense and, when the Combined Chiefs of Staff met in London on June 11th ... the British chiefs called for a re examination of Allied strategy in the Med..."(Wilmot, p. 448)

The 17th Wilson put forth a proposal to Marshall and Arnold (who the hell is he!), who were in Italy, of scrapping Anvil and allocating all forces to the continuation of the hunt and advance into the Po Valley as well as supporting an amphibious landing on the Istrian peninsula, exploit the Ljubjana Gap and strike "into the plains of Hungary". "He suggested that the development of a direct threat to the Upper Danube - the strategic centre of Europe - would compel the Germans to withdraw substantial forces from France. The help thus provided for Eisenhower would, said Wilson, "be less direct, but more effective.""

Seems the Yanks poo poo'd the idea due to Ike wanting the southern French ports and troops and not to mention the Americans refusing to send any troops into the Balkans - any enterprise would be a British (and Imperial/CW) affair.

19 June the British chiefs stress that the attacks in Italy should be kept up to create a threat to southern Germany during '44. It seems Wilson then pointed out that the launching of Anvil would result in the offensive bogging down, the Germans digging in and sod all happening. Wilson is quoted as saying that Anvil "imp[ied] a strategy aimed at defeating Germany during the first half 1945 at the cost of an opportunity of defeating her before the end of 1944".(Wilmot, p. 450)

Wilmot later goes on to state that this was not a British POV, Yankies supported it to: there is a bunch of material quoted from pages 348-51 from Calculated Risk by Clark where he mostly points to political victory over the Soviets but does suggest this advance would have caused Germany to collapse. It would seem he also pleaded with Marshal, when the latter was in Rome, for the exploitation of the Ljubljana Gap.(Wilmot, p. 455)

That’s the last he states on the matter, as far as i can tell from the context matches to Danube, however on page 615 he does reiterate the importance of the Danube to the German war economy - this time as the Soviets reach it; the Hungarian stretch being close to the Hungarian bauxite mines, vital for the Luftwaffe, and the Hungarian oil fields.

So three key reasons for launching the op:
1) Political victory over the Soviets
2) Attempt to collapse the German war economy
3) threaten the southern flank/centre of Europe to divert German attention

One will note even the ideas floating about what this attack could achieve don’t even seem to be correspond with each other, each party thinking something different, leading me to believe they didn’t put that much into planning it as a contingency?

While he provides allot of interesting information; i think he raises far too many questions than he answers. No mention of the logistical issues crop up and they all seem certain this attack would achieve its ultimate goal (whatever that may be) yet on the otherhand Ike wrote a letter to say sorry Overlord had failed... No mention of what forces are actually going to be used to launch this operation is mentioned, the map accompanying this section shows Fifth Army operating in Northern Italy while part of Eighth Army makes the landing in the Balkans while the other portion moves on Trieste. Additionally none of the commanders are quoted, nor does Wilmot state if the attack is to be reinforced with additional UK/CW or Americans forces (although i doubt the latte due to the Americans not allowing their boys into the Balkans) – considering one idea of the plan is to draw as many German troops onto the attack as possible.

For me the latter is the main issue (following if the guys can actually get ashore and move inland) how was half to a full Army suppose to keep advancing while the envisioned attack drew down every troop from France etc ...

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 19 Feb 2010 01:36

In the last volume of the Med and ME series of the British OH, General Jackson also points out the importance of the Danube to the German economy and Allied attempts to “close it”; 1,375 mines were laid in the river during six months during 392 sorties in 19 attacks. 60 tugs and 200 barges are believed to have been sunk disrupting and causing a “drastic reduction in the delivery of oil to the Reich” Resulting in the diversion of AA guns etc (Jackson, V,VI pt III p. 138)

Quite a few mentions of the gap and the attack into the Balkans are made in V.VI pt II:

Around 1st July General Harding completed “Appreciation number 4”. He estimated 12-14 German divisions in Italy, with an additional 6-7 in Germany and the Balkans; i.e. up to 21 divisions. AAI (Allied forces in Italy i take it?) mustered 18 divisions (14 inf and 4 armoured) with 7 indy brigades. In a three phase plan he believed that the Gothic Line could be taken and exploited to seize the Po region and finally cross the Piave to exploit and secure Ljubljana. However Harding believed that 18 divisions would be needed for this attack and that six divisions should be resting at any one time meaning a further six would be needed to complete this offensive. He suggested that the Battleaxe division should be kept in Italy (at the end of the month it was shipped to Egypt and would not return until 15 September (lt.Col Joslen, p. 102), the 52nd Lowland would be needed to dispatched from the Uk, and 6th Indian Div moved in from Persian and Iraq command (PAIC). The remaining forces coming from the US, that couldn’t be used right away in France, and those Indian divisions currently unemployed due to the monsoon.

Harding’s assessment was that each phase would have to be rapid advances to halt the German scored earth treatment of Italy other wise a slogging advance to Ljubljana would be “administratively impractical”.

Harding’s report concluded “The strategical advantages of continuing it [the offensive] to the logical conclusion of securing the Ljubljana Gap, preparatory to an invasion of southern Germany, are so great that supreme efforts should be made to find the means to enable that to be done”

Alexander apparently accepted Harding’s report and “detailed planning at all levels for the First Phase of the advance towards the Ljubljana Gap, namely breeching the Gothic Line.”

Alexander tried to get more troops into the theatre from PAIC on hearing of the Valkriene attempt but Brooke poo poo’d the idea citing the end of the war in sight would mean Alexander wouldn’t need more forces.

Seems over the month various reasons resulted in no troops being sent – PAIC cited internal security issues, 52nd was not released, the Americans built up the 92nd slowly as well as the arrival of the Brazilian division. A few British brigades were moved to the country but thats about it. Seems the extra 6 divisions, was not built up (piecemeal) until August/September.(Jackson, pp. 53-56)

It would seem imo the possible moment had long gone by this point

It would seem that Alexander fought tooth and nail to get operations going and to try and keep the Italian front from congealing... even into August, around the time he finally got his troops. Although it seems in various meetings Brook didn’t want him bringing it up to the Yanks, while Brook and Wilson now didn’t see the operation not being feasible any time until 1945 and the only if Ike’s boys got bogged down on the West Wall. Additionally the landing on the Istrian peninsula was to be made only by three divisions!

However it was only following whatever date this meeting took place during August that planning to consider the “desirability and practicability” of a landing on this peninsula took place, as well as estimating how many troops could be fed through to assault Ljubljana and beyond.(Jackson, various pages but mainly 210-211)

By late October Alexander was still planning for this operation with a target date of Feb 1945. One should consider that he also lost several divisions and brigades due to the situation in Greece during this period too. On 23rd Oct he issued orders that the ports, roads and rail communication lines should be improved to allow the advance on Ljubljana and Fiume.(Jackson, 385-386)

Those pages being the last mention in the contents. With that information i do withdraw my queries in regards to planning. But it seem so contradictory to me in regards to the logistical situation; Harding thought if operations didn’t bog down and additional forces were rushed to Italy the operation was entirely possible however three months latter Alexander is issuing orders for the RE to improve the lines of communications to allow the operation to go ahead the following year – this gives me the impression that the logistical situation was deteriorating.

What i don’t see is when or way the decision was made to abandon the crossing of the Piave in favour of the landing on the Istrian peninsula. Although it isn’t clear if they are suggesting two thrusts towards the gap; one via northern Italy and a second via this second method. Finally there doesn’t seem to any details, again (although one assumes these are in various primary sources), detailing the logistical planning to support operations beyond the gap.

Anyhoo hope all this crap helps somewhat :D :lol:

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 19 Feb 2010 02:35

Enigma,

From what I posted above, the estimate of the situation stated that only 6 divisions could be supported in Austria. I believe it is one rail line and two roads, all of which run through very mountainous terrain, in which FM Brooke describe the terrain in Italy as "one blown culvert delays an army for a day", the terrain through the Ljubljana Gap was basically the same as in Italy. Also, IIRC no appreciation was made on the British side, I believe all references to advancing on the Ljubljana Gap was done informally in the mess, no hard work done to come up with any real answers other than dreaming.
The dumbest thing we did in World War II or at least one of the dumbest things was fighting up the boot of Italy. After we got the airfields in the south and fought far enough up to secure them we should of quit attacking and went on the defensive. It is perfect defensible terrain from what I have read and it leads to nowhere!!! Okay it leads to the Alps, if you are in to skiing, or mountain climbing, it is perfect!
You should get that little book that Michael Howard wrote very short, lots of information. From what you have posted I will probably never read Wilmot.

Mike

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 19 Feb 2010 02:49

From what i read in Jackson's book the idea was laid down as the long term goal - to get to the gap at least - by General Harding in Appreciation Number 4; although after that i think your right per the stuff from Jackson its ad-hoc rushing from one crisis to the next to try and get everything into shape.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 25 Feb 2010 18:04

Enigma,
The Enigma wrote: The 17th Wilson put forth a proposal to Marshall and Arnold (who the hell is he!), who were in Italy, of scrapping Anvil
That would be "Hap" Arnold, he was in charge of the Army Air Corps, which later was called, I believe, the Army Air Forces. He finished the war as a five star general and here is a bio of him:

http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/bio_arnold.htm

Mike

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by Delta Tank » 25 Feb 2010 18:18

From another book.

Eisenhower, A Soldier’s Life, by Carlo D’Este. ISBN 13: 978-0-8050-5687-7

page 552.
Uppermost in Churchill’s mind were the political benefits he foresaw from a successful thrust through Trieste and the Ljubljana gap to seize Vienna before the Russians arrived. What Churchill never accepted was that keeping Alexander’s army group intact would not have overcome the problems encountered during the deadly Allied advance into northern Italy during the summer of 1944, which cost thirty-four thousand casualties. How such a military operation might actually have been carried out through the exceedingly difficult terrain of the Apennines and the even more daunting Yugoslavian mountains, all the while overcoming German resistance, was simply not part of Churchill’s logic.

page 690.
The United States also had cause for concern over Churchill’s impossible Balkan notion of sending Alexander’s armies through the so-called Ljubljana Gap and into the plains of the Danube and Vienna, a scheme scarcely more than a Churchillian fantasy. Thus such British proposals targeting Berlin and the Ljubljana Gap received short shrift from the United States at this stage of the war.

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Re: Ljubljana Gap! Myth!

Post by The_Enigma » 25 Feb 2010 19:50

A Churchill fantasy ... possible. Although D'Este fails to note, it would seem, Clark was up for it and the British staff in Italy were actually planning it; the staff had a tendancy to ignore Churchill, or in Brooke's case argue the socks off Churchill, when they didnt agree with him. On this one they appear to have agreed with him.

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