Axis shipping in the Mediterranean

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 23 Nov 2006 08:08

Wargames wrote:(65 tons of airlifted fuel) would be enough to move two panzer divisions 100 miles. While that might be effective in Tunisia, landing that same 65 tons in Tripoli for delivery to El Alamein would only move two Panzer divisions 10 miles. So now you have to fly in 650 tons requiring 520 Ju 52's or ten trips by 52 Ju52's.
The whole point of air transport is that you don't have to use Tripoli but aircraft based in Crete can deliver supplies closer to the front (e.g. east of Tobruk) so your calculation would apply to trucks but not to aircraft.
Wargames wrote: Then you have to consider how much of the 650 tons would be used by the Ju52's themselves in flying all the way to Tripoli (or Bardia) and back?


None. The planes made a round trip on a fuel tank, precisely so as not to deplete North African fuel stocks.
Wargames wrote:Complicating that even further, between 1940-42 there are no Ju52's. Thus, in the very example you used, Germany, not Italy, transported it.
Ju.52s were deployed in the Mediterranean since late 1940, with 100-150 permanently in theater since 1941 (more in an emergency e.g. mid-1941) going up to 250 in the summer of 1942 as I wrote. Plus the heavy lifters discussed elsewhere, plus the Italian planes. So who cares who transported it? The capacity was available, and used.
Last edited by Bronsky on 23 Nov 2006 08:09, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Wargames » 23 Nov 2006 08:08

Bronsky wrote:
What Jon and I have been telling you is that even if your facts were correct (which they're not: e.g. Francesco Crispi sunk in April 1943, over a year after Italy is supposed to have ceased operating liners),
The Crispi was not sunk delivering troops to North Africa.
Wargames wrote:
Warships will not transport troops.
They must not have been aware of your wisdom because they did.
I suspect a gross exaggeration here. An Italian infantry battalion numbers over 800 men. What Italian warship ever landed a battalion anywhere? I'm not going to accept a citation of four guys in a rowboat. In supplying North Africa you must deal with meaningful numbers and the lowest meaningful denomination is a battalion.
And yet, between July and September 1942, 46,000 men were flown in. Yes, at 18 per aircraft that's 2,600 lifts. No, the Axis didn't have 2,600 planes, nor did it need to. Its 250 Ju 52s plus a handful of SM 82s did the job, plus another 1,900 lifts ferrying 4,000 tons of supply & equipment (the troops' individual equipment was part of the personnel lifts).
Nice statistics except try and do that with SM81's. They had four left in September, 1943. And - let's see - 4,000 tons delivered in three months? Well that will work great if the Axis Army in North Africa only requires 1,333 tons a month. Does it?

How practical is it to try and supply North Africa by air?
More to the point, the Axis never ran out of means to insert troops to the theater (look up the reinforcement of Tunisia). I stand by that point, and "never" is meant to include both Libya and Tunisia.
I see. They could insert them. They just couldn't get them back out. How many men was it they couldn't transport back out? 250,000? Why didn't they take them out on their warships? Their 250 Ju52's? Or on their "272 ships with an aggregate tonnage of 748,578 GRT or an average of 2,752"? Why didn't they just fly them out on their handful of SM81's?

Then we have the 22,000 Italian soldiers who drowned on the way to North Africa. Apparently, they weren't inserted.

And, BTW, Italy lost 2,513 merchant ships during the war and you count just 272 left? That means 97.7% were sunk but - "no shipping shortage" according to you. I think you forget that Italy also had to supply her Army in Greece which required shipping as well. What ships are carrying that?

Now I won't contest that Italy "never ran out of means to insert troops to the theater" but she was in the process of doing exactly that and which is why Tunisia was not evacuated. I give Italy very high marks for her supply achievements and I think you do too. But one cannot say "Italy couldn't ever run out of means to insert troops to the theater" because Italy most certainly could. For this reason I count merchant transport ships available. If you lose enough of them, and you can, then you can't supply North Africa. You admit yourself Italy ran out of tankers in 1942 below:
The same is true of tankers. It took until mid-1942 for Italy to run out of them. Before then, the problem wasn't the availability of tankers to ship fuel to North Africa, it was the tactical situation, of which Malta was a big part. Otherwise, why send half-loaded tankers? Similarly, deliveries declined in late 1941, and picked up again in early 1942. Did Italy gain access to a new source of tankers in the meantime? No, it didn't. On the other hand, Malta was neutralized and relatively inactive in early '42 whereas it had been un-neutralized and very active in late '41. Feel free to decide which of an hypothetical tanker shortage or Malta was the most important.
I never stated that Italy had a scarcity of tankers in 1940. Yet she had a scarcity of them by 1942. How much oil was Italy delivering to North Africa after mid-1942, the time you, yourself, say Italy ran out of tankers?

If tankers eventually become a scarce item, then you have to count them. To not do so, ignores their significance to supplying North Africa.
Jon's table is about how many shipping losses were to aircraft and say nothing of how dangerous attacking convoys was to the RAF. Operational records and pilots' memoirs disagree with you is all I can say.
Since you have operational records to disagree with me, let's examine the slowest, easiest plane for Italy to shoot down - the 135 mph Swordfish torpedo plane. How many Swordfish were shot down by the Italian Navy? I'll allow you to be off by as much as double the actual figure - no - triple.
To the Allies, supply was very much a concern but the bottleneck was always the ability to get the supply from Egypt to the front (same as the Axis most of the time, really) and not the amount of supply in Egypt.
As I stated, one need not measure the amount of supply landed in Egypt.
Similarly, the huge buildup of Egypt as a logistical base is not simulated: no point in drafting a rule saying that you have to wait until 1941 before you can proceed and refit 200 tanks and 100 aircraft with the numbers doubling in 1942, as the reinforcement schedule precludes that ever being necessary. So rather than clutter the game with useless mechanics, the designer writes "unlimited supply is available in Egypt at no cost".
Yes. That's pretty much how it works. The reinforcement schedule precludes that ever being necessary since the British wait for the scheduled reinforcements during which time 200 tanks are refitted and 100 aircraft before starting an offensive. Tracking the British supply becomes a useless exercise. Historically, they never got low and you can't interfere with them so they're not a factor.
Even in operational games, you may have to resupply Malta which will prove extremely costly. Look up the Harpoon & Pedestal convoys, for example. They were so costly that most games either assume that Malta is automatically supplied (so that the Allied player doesn't decide to let it go) or that North African port capacity is the practical limit (so that even if the Allied player declines to supply Malta, the Axis performance remains more or less historical).
This problem is addressed by requiring that the game achieve the political objectives of both Mussollini, Churchill, and Hitler. Churchill deemed Malta was not to be given up and Greece reinforced. Therefore, the objective must be carried out and to the degree it was historically carried out and no matter how costly. Thus, Harpoon and Pedestal will take place. If no supplies get through, nothing will fly or sail from Malta. British troops will be moved to Greece - And then evacuated again. It does not matter whether it is a reasonable objective or not. Similarly, Italy must invade Greece - Even though it is stupid to do so - and send troops to Russia and planes to Belgium. These were political dictates given to the commanders which, in turn, become the victory conditions of the wargame.

It sounds as if you've played one. I run mine on computer programs. It allows you to consider more variables.

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Post by Andy H » 23 Nov 2006 08:19

Wargamer wrote again:
What Italian warship ever landed a battalion anywhere? I'm not going to accept a citation of four guys in a rowboat. In supplying North Africa you must deal with meaningful numbers and the lowest meaningful denomination is a battalion.
I refer to my previous answer below:-
From January 1943 on, Italy had only some 10 servicable destroyers at any given moment. Warships delivered some 51,935 troops to Tunisia in this period. Given that a DD could only carry around 300, it indicates how hard these vessels had to work.

Source: Bragadin Pg245
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Post by Andy H » 23 Nov 2006 08:35

Wargamer wrote:
And, BTW, Italy lost 2,513 merchant ships during the war and you count just 272 left? That means 97.7% were sunk but - "no shipping shortage" according to you
I think Jon was indicating that Italy had 272 merchant ships over 500tons available on 08/09/43. Thus your 97.7% figure is inaccurate.
Bragadin states that for the course of the war Italy had available 938 ships over 500tons, of which 565 were lost, leaving 373 (less 101 undergoing repair) gives you the 272 figure. The figure for merchant ships lost under 500tons is stated as 759. Total merchant ship losses for the Axis in the Med (until the Armistice) numbered 1324 vessels.

Where did you get your figure of 2513 from?

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Post by Bronsky » 23 Nov 2006 09:19

Wargames wrote:Nice statistics except try and do that with SM81's. They had four left in September, 1943. And - let's see - 4,000 tons delivered in three months? Well that will work great if the Axis Army in North Africa only requires 1,333 tons a month. Does it?

How practical is it to try and supply North Africa by air?
No-one ever claimed that it was.

The point was your statement that the Italians had run out of liners in 1942 and therefore could no longer ship troops to North Africa. The answer is they used warships and aircraft.

Yes, you can deliver a unit in several loads. In fact that is how most ground units were dispatched. As an example, the Ramcke brigade was roughly 4,000 strong, and no Axis plane could hold 4,000. Yet they did it: it was entirely airlifted to North Africa. The same applied to see transport.

The Axis didn't ship additional divisions to North Africa when 1/ they had no other unit to send, 2/ they didn't need the extra units as opposed to replacements for existing units, because of supply constraints. When they needed to send more troops in theater, they did. See Tunisia as an example.
Wargames wrote:They could insert them. They just couldn't get them back out. How many men was it they couldn't transport back out? 250,000? Why didn't they take them out on their warships? Their 250 Ju52's? Or on their "272 ships with an aggregate tonnage of 748,578 GRT or an average of 2,752"? Why didn't they just fly them out on their handful of SM81's?
You're confusing the situation as of April 1943 and that of previous years. Also, the 272 ships are what was left in addition to ships in repairs at the time of the armistice i.e. September 1943. Do try to follow.
Wargames wrote:And, BTW, Italy lost 2,513 merchant ships during the war and you count just 272 left? That means 97.7% were sunk but - "no shipping shortage" according to you. I think you forget that Italy also had to supply her Army in Greece which required shipping as well. What ships are carrying that?
You've posted outlandish figures twice, I asked for a source for them and am still waiting. This is the third time you're posting a nonsensical figure, so I'll be asking again: please provide a source for that number.
Wargames wrote:I never stated that Italy had a scarcity of tankers in 1940. Yet she had a scarcity of them by 1942. How much oil was Italy delivering to North Africa after mid-1942, the time you, yourself, say Italy ran out of tankers?
119,130 tonnes, and you're welcome.

You wrote that Italy's ability to ship fuel to Africa was limited by her tanker stock. That's simply not true prior to mid-1942. Throughout 1941, oil deliveries declined from their high point of the early year. Was it because Italy was running out of tankers? No, because oil deliveries in the second quarter of 1942 were up 79% compared to the previous one, April 1942 was the wartime record.
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Post by Wargames » 23 Nov 2006 10:31

Bronsky wrote:
The whole point of air transport is that you don't have to use Tripoli but aircraft based in Crete can deliver supplies closer to the front (e.g. east of Tobruk) so your calculation would apply to trucks but not to aircraft.
Yes. Very good. I did find the "3rd Group" of Ju-52's doing just that (flying from Crete to Derna). I was completely unaware of this. My compliments on your research and knowledge.
The planes would made a round trip on a fuel tank, precisely so as not to deplete North African fuel stocks.
The same source that described 25 Ju52's on Sicily and the 3rd Group on Crete in 1941 disagrees with you. Quoting from it:

"Kesselring had no illusions about how costly air transport was. One horsepower of an airplane engine could move about 20 pounds of cargo at most; one horsepower of a ship engine could move up to 9,000 pounds. At the end of December 1941, the German commander canceled transport flights from Crete to Derna not because of enemy fighters but because half of every load of fuel brought in had to be used to fly the Junkers back to Crete."

http://www.historynet.com/wars_conflict ... page=2&c=y

However, at this point I've learned not to disagree with you.

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Post by Wargames » 23 Nov 2006 11:05

Andy H wrote:
From January 1943 on, Italy had only some 10 servicable destroyers at any given moment. Warships delivered some 51,935 troops to Tunisia in this period. Given that a DD could only carry around 300, it indicates how hard these vessels had to work.

Source: Bragadin Pg245
Yes. This was the sort of citation I expected and why I asked for evidence of a battalion being moved (300 men is about a company). It's the same thing the Japanese tried on Guadalcanal. While I don't question the source, I don't swallow the claim. A DD will not transport divisional equipment. It took one Italian DD to deliver just one 20mm A/A gun. You can deliver the bodies this way but you'll have to find another way to deliver the equipment. Otherwise, these DD's were delivering POW's to Tunisia, 300 at a time.

The system will work if you're delivering replacement troops to a division with already existing equipment (The same with flying soldiers to North Africa).

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Post by Jon G. » 23 Nov 2006 11:28

Wargames wrote:...My misunderstanding. I thought you meant that all liners were too big for ports in North Africa.
With all respect, I think you are perhaps viewing this whole complex of problems in too all-or-nothing terms. The fact that ocean-going liners were of no use on the North African routes does not mean that the Italians did not use any liners at all - merely that Italy did not rely solely on liners when despatching troops to Libya. Liners were used, yes, but so were warships, cargo ships and aircraft. No, a cargo ship probably does not offer a comfortable ride, but then it is not a very long trip either.
You're making it appear as if the Italians were left with a choice of air-delivered troops (by SM 81 only) or troops shipped in on liners. That is a false dilemma.
It's also not what I intended. Liners were used to move large, division sized units because of their ability to handle both soldiers as well as vehicles. By comparison, cargo ships were usually limited to carrying a battalion. Because the liner represents the fastest, single most efficient way to move a brigade or even an entire division, their availability (or lack thereof) becomes a factor in transporting large units. Since the liner is in limited numbers and often sunk, it is therefore seperated from the cargo merchant marine and its numbers kept track of just as one keeps track of tankers. This is important if you want to land a division in a hurry and the liners have all been sunk. You can still move a division by cargo ships but it's now going to require a major convoy with major escort (or several small convoys in which case it will not get there in a hurry. And, if you're relying on SM.81's, it won't get there at all.).
I've no doubts that - in wargaming terms - a liner represents a faster, neater way of transporting troops, but large ships also take much more time to load and unload. By using several smaller ships, possibly in several convoys, troops and their gear can be discharged from ship in a continuous, orderly stream, rather than as a single ketchup burst which is guaranteed to clutter the quays (and then the streets) of Tripolis for days on end.

Also, from a risk-assessment point of view, it may be more desirable to ship over your troops in several ships working on the assumption that one shouldn't put all of one's eggs in one basket. So, if the smallest chit in your wargame represents a division, then you have a problem once you run out of liners - but in real life, that division can be broken down into innumerable parts as required and as appropriate.
Well, I am not suggesting that the Axis should, or could, have shipped in all fuel by air. I simply brought it up as an alternative means of fuel delivery which was tried on occasion - for example in April 1943, when 65 tons of fuel was delivered to Tunis by 52 (fifty-two) Ju 52s.
That would be enough to move two panzer divisions 100 miles. While that might be effective in Tunisia, landing that same 65 tons in Tripoli for delivery to El Alamein would only move two Panzer divisions 10 miles. So now you have to fly in 650 tons requiring 520 Ju 52's or ten trips by 52 Ju52's. Then you have to consider how much of the 650 tons would be used by the Ju52's themselves in flying all the way to Tripoli (or Bardia) and back? Because that distance is far greater.
Well, as Bronsky already demonstrated, the great advantage of air-delivered fuel was that it could be delivered exactly where it was needed, without any additional fuel required to transport it overland. Therefore, and in a certain light, 65 tons of fuel air-delivered to El Alamein by air represents 715 tons of fuel delivered to Tripolis.

Actually, the daily POL needs of a single panzer division are more likely to be in the 100-ton ball park. Although, if we accept that Axis units were perpetually understrength and if we assume meticulous rationing, 65 tons might be enough for a single day of operations, assuming that the unit already has ample ammunition, food and everything else...

Also as demonstrated by Bronsky, you are wrongly assuming that the 65 tons of fuel were delivered in a single lift by 52 Ju52s - in fact, the Ju52s were working in several lifts, flying the 125-odd miles from Sicily to Tunis several times in the same day.
Complicating that even further, between 1940-42 there are no Ju52's. Thus, in the very example you used, Germany, not Italy, transported it.
Some of the very first German units active in the Mediterranean were Ju 52 which were ferrying troops from Bari to Albania in December 1940 - note how soldiers were sent by air also at a time when Italy had plenty of liners available, a fairly secure sea line across the Adriatic and Ionian seas and a decent-sized port at Valona...

Ju 52s were present in the Mediterranean theater continously pretty much from the beginning to the end; for example Fliegerkorps X had 200-odd Greece-based Ju 52s in June 1941; on the eve of Alamein Lufttransportflotte Mittelmeer, under Luftflotte 2 had 260-odd Ju 52s on strength, in addition to a few Ju 52s still with Fliegerkorps X.
The Italians most certainly shipped fuel in drums to North Africa more than once. Indeed, for Axis-held destination west of Benghazi (or west of Tripolis in 1941), drums was the only means to deliver fuel to Axis-held ports.
I was not challenging your claim of fuel being shipped by drums but your statement "sometimes by warships". That was only tried once and you seem to know how it ended as you note below:
I wrote: True enough, fuel shipped aboard warships was a risky proposal. I suppose the submarines delivering fuel right from 1940 and onwards qualify as warships too...
Wargames wrote:Italy did try and land supplies by submarine but their capacity for space is so virtually negligible that no record of any tonnage delivered seems to be available (although I suspect one of Italy's large ocean going boats could have carried perhaps 50 tons? As for her coastal submarines - nothing.). I don't think Italy transported anything by submarine in 1940 to North Africa (I suspect you're thinking of Eritrea) but did in 1943, which demonstrates how desperate things were by then and why a wargame must monitor supply to North Africa. It is a critical factor.
The Regia Marina did indeed ship supplies to North Africa by submarine as early as June 1940, a brief description of which may be found here. On that particular occasion, urgency rather than desperation seems to have motivated the use of submarines. Tobruk was a small port after all. The same page links to probably the most well-known occasion when Italian warships transported fuel...

You are of course right that supply was a critical factor in North Africa. The Axis effort to resupply their forces in that theater was hamstrung by many factors, but lack of shipping, or even lack of creativity, were not among the most important ones. The small capacity of Italy's North African ports and the presence of Malta were far more dominant factors.

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Post by Andy H » 23 Nov 2006 18:03

Hi

Why the emphasis on a single Btn being delivered by a single ship? Logistically its better to transport via a single vessel, but if needs dictate 3, then so be it.

Also again, where did you get your mechant ship figure from?
Wargames wrote:Andy H wrote:
From January 1943 on, Italy had only some 10 servicable destroyers at any given moment. Warships delivered some 51,935 troops to Tunisia in this period. Given that a DD could only carry around 300, it indicates how hard these vessels had to work.

Source: Bragadin Pg245
Yes. This was the sort of citation I expected and why I asked for evidence of a battalion being moved (300 men is about a company). It's the same thing the Japanese tried on Guadalcanal. While I don't question the source, I don't swallow the claim. A DD will not transport divisional equipment. It took one Italian DD to deliver just one 20mm A/A gun. You can deliver the bodies this way but you'll have to find another way to deliver the equipment. Otherwise, these DD's were delivering POW's to Tunisia, 300 at a time.

The system will work if you're delivering replacement troops to a division with already existing equipment (The same with flying soldiers to North Africa).
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Post by Wargames » 24 Nov 2006 11:01

Now that we have eliminated the misunderstandings and my failure to recognize the presence of Ju-52's being available, we can return to the orignal arguments. I claim the following as facts which you are free to dispute. They are:

1) A liner represents the fastest, simplest, most efficient method of transporting a division or brigade sized units to North Africa. It transports both men and vehicles, for which purpose it was designed. It is also faster, usually able to make 20 knots. It does not take days to load or unload as claimed. Liners are the most efficient means of boarding vehicles and troop passengers both, as well as disembarking them.

2) Army operations in North Africa were conducted on a minimum brigade sized basis. The only battalion sized units in independent operation were tanks and armored infantry, both vehicle heavy. None of these units can be transported by aircraft, submarines, tankers or warships.

3) Cargo ships have a limited passenger carrying capacity seldom exceeding a battalion. They are also slower than liners (usually 12 knots or less). Their priority is efficient movement of materials versus troops.

4) Tankers are limited to fuel transport and irreplaceable for this purpose by either liners, cargo ships, or warships. The Axis forces in North Africa required up to 6,000 tons of fuel each month. The most ever delivered, by non-tanker means that I know is 1,200 tons in a month. Hence, tankers must make up the difference. Claims made here that tankers were not needed to make up the difference are contradicted by historical operations. I will use three examples:

Example A: In August, 1942, Rommel needed 6,000 tons of fuel for his planned September offensive. 1,000 tons were to be flown in. The rest was to be brought in by sea. On August 28, the Italian tanker, Diepli, was sunk, denying 2200 tons of the required 6,000 tons. Just days later, on September 1, 1942, the Axis Army in North Africa was out of fuel.

Example B: Prior to attacking the Axis Army in November, 1942, the British deprived Rommel of his fuel by the following two sinkings. On Oct 26: British Beaufort torpedo bombers of No.42 /47 Squadron Royal Air Force sank the tanker Proserpina at Tobruk and, on Oct 28, the tanker, Louisiano, was sunk by torpedo with 2,000 tons of petrol off Benghazi/Tobruk. Just two days later, on October 30, 1942, Rommel was out of fuel.

Example C: Against Tunisia, on 10 March a submarine sank a tanker. On 17 March the British submarine Splendid destroyed another tanker. On 23 March a submarine sank the tanker Zeila. In April, 1943, The Axis were without fuel in Tunisia and surrendered in total in May.

If tankers were unnecessary to North African supply, there would have been no fuel shortage and no need to send tankers. Yet, in each case, tankers were sent and, when they failed to arrive, the Axis forces were left without of fuel and LOST the resultant battle every time. No alternative method EXISTED by which to deliver the required fuel.

4) Warships will not transport fuel, cargo, or combat brigades. No combat brigade was ever transferred by these means that I know of. This applies to submarines and destroyers and anything else. The concept that submarines could supply North Africa is imaginary. If they could have, they would have. The fact that someone tried it does not mean it was successful. On the contrary, it was not. Destroyers can be used for transferring replacement troops but not equipment - not so much as a single truck.

5) Aircraft cannot supply North Africa with either the minimum required fuel or the minimum required supply maintenance in lieu of convoys and, with the exception of the Gigante used in Tunisia, will not transfer combat brigades other than parachute brigades (and possibly Italian mountain units as their equipment was designed for animal pack train). They can be used for transferring replacement troops for existing Axis divisions already there that already have existing equipment. They also represent the most inefficient fuel means available for supplying North Africa.

To my knowledge, these are the actual facts of the supply situation in North Africa.

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Post by Bronsky » 24 Nov 2006 13:27

Wargames wrote:
Bronsky wrote: The planes would made a round trip on a fuel tank, precisely so as not to deplete North African fuel stocks.
The same source that described 25 Ju52's on Sicily and the 3rd Group on Crete in 1941 disagrees with you. Quoting from it:

"Kesselring had no illusions about how costly air transport was. One horsepower of an airplane engine could move about 20 pounds of cargo at most; one horsepower of a ship engine could move up to 9,000 pounds. At the end of December 1941, the German commander canceled transport flights from Crete to Derna not because of enemy fighters but because half of every load of fuel brought in had to be used to fly the Junkers back to Crete."
Thanks for the source. I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation, for the following reasons:
1. "At the end of December 1941" the Axis had withdrawn to El Agheila, making flights to Derna problematic 8-) After Rommel's counterattack the front stabilized around Gazala i.e. Derna would be uncomfortably close.
2. Max range for the Ju.52 was 1,000 km, or a little under a 500 km (310 miles) combat radius. Heraklion to Derna is 230 miles, so normally the round trip shouldn't be a problem, barring exceptionally bad weather, navigation errors and the usual accidents. So as a rule, the transports wouldn't need to refuel prior to flying back.
3. Fuel load for the Ju.52 was 2,475 liters i.e. roughly the same weight as internal cargo. If half the unloaded cargo consisted of fuel, this means a 50% increase in consumption, i.e. a 50% longer round trip. Distance from Crete to Derna is about the same as that to points west all the way to Mersa Matruh, so we can rule that one out.

What is true is that in a round trip to North Africa, a Ju.52 delivered a little under two tons while consuming the same amount of fuel. In other words, for 4,000 tons to be airlifted to North Africa from Crete, another 4,000 tons of fuel had to be sent to Crete (not North Africa). That may be the origin of the 50% ratio mentioned in the article.

So the conclusion is correct - air transport is wasteful - but the point as written - 50% of the load transported to North Africa was consumed by the transporters - is not.

Regarding how costly air transport was, the following is quoted from "PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE WAR HISTORIES: The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force 1933-1945" which is an excellent book despite its age (1948) and is currently available for a ridiculous price (£3 or about $5) at the Naval & Military Press. (I don't hold stock with them in case anyone wonders about the free publicity)
by the end of September [1942], the intensive effort maintained had begun to show its effect, and most of the transport units were by then exhausted and the serviceability of aircraft and fitness of crews declined [from a 50-60% rate during the summer]. Owing to losses, moreover, shortage of crews became so acute that units were reduced to borrowing from each other in order to fly such aircraft as they had serviceable. Flying conditions remained as difficult as ever owing to lack of sufficient fighter protection for the transport formations, which were constantly exposed to interception by the R.A.F.; nor was it possible to introduce the obvious remedy of night flying, since insufficient numbers of crews trained in blind flying were available. Thus the weakening effects of the robbing of training schools of Ju.52 aircraft late in 1941 already began to show its effects. The German air transport force in the Mediterranean was therefore hardly in a position to redouble its efforts when the British Eighth Army went over to the offensive at El Alamein on 24th October, 1942.

Air Transport in the Retreat from El Alamein
75. Owing to the sinking of a number of tankers by air attack immediately before the opening of the British offensive on the night of 23rd-24th October, 1942, the fuel position of the Axis ground forces became extremely acute; further limited reinforcements of transport aircraft were made available, including some of the large capacity type, the Ju.90 and Ju.290, and so critical was the situation that FW.200 long-range aircraft based at Bordeaux, and hitherto employed on anti-shipping operations over the Atlantic, had to be diverted to the Mediterranean, all aircraft being devoted exclusively to the transport of M.T. fuel. By these efforts some 250 to 275 tons a day could be brought over, sufficient barely to meet current requirements so long as the battle remained relatively static.
76. Once the German retreat began, it was solely due to the arrival of fuel supplies by air that the retiring elements of Rommel's Army succeeded in withdrawing all their forces from Cyrenaica to the El Agheila position and, but for this, it is doubtful whether any appreciable forces could have succeeded in getting much further back from El Alamein than the Egyptian frontier.

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Post by Bronsky » 24 Nov 2006 14:46

Wargames wrote:1) A liner represents the fastest, simplest, most efficient method of transporting a division or brigade sized units to North Africa. It transports both men and vehicles, for which purpose it was designed. It is also faster, usually able to make 20 knots. It does not take days to load or unload as claimed. Liners are the most efficient means of boarding vehicles and troop passengers both, as well as disembarking them.


Only a handful of liners could transport a division's worth of troops. None could transport a division complete with equipment. Purpose-built car ferries are a postwar invention, WWII liners as a rule could transport cargo (many were in fact mix cargo-liners) but were not more efficient in loading / unloading times compared to a regular freighter.

Troops don't take days disembarking, but unloading equipment does take days. Most WWII liners were not able to make 20 knots, think 14-15 knots instead with 12 knots for the mixed freighters mentioned above and the small coastal liners. The fastest ships were also the largest i.e. most vulnerable and unable to dock in such small ports as Benghazi & Tobruk.
Wargames wrote:2) Army operations in North Africa were conducted on a minimum brigade sized basis. The only battalion sized units in independent operation were tanks and armored infantry, both vehicle heavy. None of these units can be transported by aircraft, submarines, tankers or warships.
As Andy wrote, this may be true in a wargame where a "battleship" counter can't transport a "division" counter, you need a special "transport" counter. In practice, combat units consist of a given number of men and their equipment. With the obvious exception of amphibious assaults, they would most of the time not travel together. The personnel of a given unit would be split between various transports, with its equipment split between various freighters. Most of the time a unit would arrive in altogether different convoys.
Wargames wrote:4) Tankers are limited to fuel transport and irreplaceable for this purpose by either liners, cargo ships, or warships.
If they were irreplaceable, how did the Allies manage to fuel their thousands of vehicles in Normandy until Cherbourg had been captured and repaired?

Tankers are specialist ships and the most efficient way to transport large quantities of fuel. It is perfectly possible, if wasteful, to transport fuel (in drums or other containers) on other ships. There are countless examples of that happening during WWII.
Wargames wrote:The Axis forces in North Africa required up to 6,000 tons of fuel each month.
They received a monthly average of a little over 19,000 tons under Rommel's watch between March 1941 and November 1942.
Wargames wrote:Example A: In August, 1942, Rommel needed 6,000 tons of fuel for his planned September offensive. 1,000 tons were to be flown in. The rest was to be brought in by sea. On August 28, the Italian tanker, Diepli, was sunk, denying 2200 tons of the required 6,000 tons. Just days later, on September 1, 1942, the Axis Army in North Africa was out of fuel.
1. Rommel received more fuel (8,000 tons) than he had requested. The problem was that the fuel was delivered too far west (largely Tripoli) and couldn't reach him in time. So this isn't a problem with tanker capacity but with an inefficiently-run supply system. Malta was a major part of that inefficiency. Please read the beginning of the thread.

2. All your examples are from the summer of 1942 and later, i.e. at a time when the Axis stock of tankers had indeed become critical. As in the pre-El Alamein example when the Axis situation was so tight that the loss of two tankers could put Rommel in jeopardy.
Fuel delivered by sea to North Africa was
22,503 August
31,061 September
12,308 October
21,731 November

Here are the figures from August to December 1941:
37,201 August
13,108 September
11,951 October
2,471 November
7,133 December

Sinkings of tankers don't explain that crisis given that deliveries picked up again later. That's where Malta comes in. Have you read the thread since the beginning?
Wargames wrote:If tankers were unnecessary to North African supply, there would have been no fuel shortage and no need to send tankers. Yet, in each case, tankers were sent and, when they failed to arrive, the Axis forces were left without of fuel and LOST the resultant battle every time. No alternative method EXISTED by which to deliver the required fuel.
This is a strawman. No-one claimed that Axis tankers were unnecessary. The question is whether they were the bottleneck in supplying North Africa. Until late in 1942, shipping in general and tankers in particular weren't.
Wargames wrote:4) Warships will not transport fuel, cargo, or combat brigades.
Between 2 July and 2 September, 1942 Axis warships delivered 1,326 tons of fuel, 137 tanks, 97 vehicles and 1,140 tons of weapons & ammunition. See the example of troops transported on warships provided by Andy: do you think they were all rear-area troops?
Wargames wrote:The concept that submarines could supply North Africa is imaginary.
Who claimed they could? Jon used that example to show that they could - and did - transport supply. If the example doesn't seem convincing enough to you, then see above.
Wargames wrote:5) Aircraft cannot supply North Africa with either the minimum required fuel or the minimum required supply maintenance in lieu of convoys and, with the exception of the Gigante used in Tunisia, will not transfer combat brigades other than parachute brigades (and possibly Italian mountain units as their equipment was designed for animal pack train). They can be used for transferring replacement troops for existing Axis divisions already there that already have existing equipment. They also represent the most inefficient fuel means available for supplying North Africa.
Aircraft can supply North Africa only with the minimum required fuel, and only on maximum effort i.e. not sustainable operations.

They can transfer personnel, with the equipment being shipped separately. The matter was brought up when you claim that loss of liners prevented the Axis from reinforcing North Africa. It didn't, end of story. Personnel is very shipping-inefficient (takes up too much volume, not enough weight) but is ideal cargo for air transport.

And yes, air transport is fuel-inefficient. So, for that matter, is warfare in general :-)

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 24 Nov 2006 20:24

Hi

I won't respond per line to your post Wargames because Bronsky has already done that. I will however add some further information, which you may or may not know.

Wargames wrote:
The concept that submarines could supply North Africa is imaginary. If they could have, they would have. The fact that someone tried it does not mean it was successful
.

From June 1940-Sept 1943, Italian submarines transported the following to North Africa. 10,641 tons of cargo (5,92 tons fuel & 4,193 tons munitions) using 29 boats in 158 missions. 6 boats were lost while undertaking these op's. I agree that submarines could not supply NA in themselves and are not best suited to this type of operation. But its hard to say it wasn't a success within the requirements expected of them.

Source: Submarines of WW2 by E.Bagnaso

Wargames wrote:
Warships will not transport fuel, cargo, or combat brigades
In regards to Cruisers both the Bari & the Muzio Attendolo took part in troop transportation. The first in regards Italy's occupation of Corsica, and the latter where it transported 3 battalions to Valona. Granted neither pertain to NA op's but it shows that it was possible and undertaken. Know doubt if you were to dig through Italian Naval records you would find more instances.

Source: Cruisers of WW2 by MJ Whitley

Wargamer wrote:
The Axis forces in North Africa required up to 6,000 tons of fuel each month. The most ever delivered, by non-tanker means that I know is 1,200 tons in a month. Hence, tankers must make up the difference
What month are you talking about in terms of non-tanker, and what means of delivery made up this non-tanker method? If we know that maybe we could agree that Tankers 'must make up the difference', in this instance.


I will add that as the war progressed, and especially after Torch, the use of flat-bottomed ferries increased by the Axis to transport its men & materials. They were less prone to torpedo or mine destruction given there low draught. Also another prime reason was that they required no cranes or derricks to help them unload. Wheeled and tracked vehicles were simply driven off them. In a earlier thread, which I'll attempt to find, we have listed somewhere the cargo-handling totals by port. Cargo ships, depending on the ports facilities take days to unload.

Regards

Andy H

PS: Still wating for that source for your Italian merchant ship total
Last edited by Andy H on 24 Nov 2006 21:33, edited 1 time in total.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 24 Nov 2006 20:57

Found that thread- http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=475997
This was the capacity of ports (Sfax, Tunis, Gabes, Sousse) in Tunisia: 225,000 t monthly (7,500 t daily) in Nov. 1942, reduced to 66,000 t (2,200 t daily) by Allied bombings by the second half of February 1943.
You could have liners/cargo ships galore, but they can only be unload at a given rate.

Regards

Andy H

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Post by Jon G. » 24 Nov 2006 21:15

Wargames wrote:...1) A liner represents the fastest, simplest, most efficient method of transporting a division or brigade sized units to North Africa. It transports both men and vehicles, for which purpose it was designed. It is also faster, usually able to make 20 knots. It does not take days to load or unload as claimed. Liners are the most efficient means of boarding vehicles and troop passengers both, as well as disembarking them.
As far as I am aware, no liners were used for Operation Sonnenblume, the transfer of German ground units to Tripolitania.
2) Army operations in North Africa were conducted on a minimum brigade sized basis. The only battalion sized units in independent operation were tanks and armored infantry, both vehicle heavy. None of these units can be transported by aircraft, submarines, tankers or warships.
I suppose that is a matter of definitions. Rommel's first thrust to recapture Cyrenaica was conducted by a single division which was split up into three seperate battlegroups for much of the campaign. Also look to the actions of the beleagured garrison at Halfaya, which was definitely smaller than brigade sized.
3) Cargo ships have a limited passenger carrying capacity seldom exceeding a battalion. They are also slower than liners (usually 12 knots or less). Their priority is efficient movement of materials versus troops.
Perhaps in wargaming terms. In historical terms, cargo ships were used to move and deliver pretty much anything needed, whether troops, equipment & vehicles, or fuel.
4) Tankers are limited to fuel transport and irreplaceable for this purpose by either liners, cargo ships, or warships. The Axis forces in North Africa required up to 6,000 tons of fuel each month. The most ever delivered, by non-tanker means that I know is 1,200 tons in a month. Hence, tankers must make up the difference. Claims made here that tankers were not needed to make up the difference are contradicted by historical operations. I will use three examples:

Example A: In August, 1942, Rommel needed 6,000 tons of fuel for his planned September offensive. 1,000 tons were to be flown in. The rest was to be brought in by sea. On August 28, the Italian tanker, Diepli, was sunk, denying 2200 tons of the required 6,000 tons. Just days later, on September 1, 1942, the Axis Army in North Africa was out of fuel...
Nobody claimed that tankers were not needed - merely that tankers weren't the only means by which fuel was delivered to North Africa.

The Dielpi was not a tanker, but a cargo ship. I'm aware that this page has it as a tanker carrying 2,200 tons of avgas, but this page classifies the Dielpi as a steamer weighing in at 1,527 GRT, whereas Sadkovich by inference calls the Dielpi a tanker on p 302 but notes on p. 304 that she was carrying only 320 tons of fuel when she was sunk. It strikes me that at least some writers might call ships carrying fuel 'tankers' simply because that was their cargo, irrespective of whether the ships were dedicated tankers or not. Finally, going to the horse's mouth, this page calls the Dielpi a 1,527 ton 'piroscafo', which means 'steamer' in my pidgin Italian.

Three days after the Dielpi was sunk, the cargo ship Anna Maria Gualdi* arrived at Tobruk carrying 1,600 tons of fuel, which is 400 tons above your mark for highest tonnage of fuel delivered by non-tankers in a whole month, which sort of defeats your point on two levels :)

For what it is worth, I seriously doubt if Axis forces in North Africa only needed 6,000 tons of fuel a month - as Bronsky demonstrated, they consistently received more, yet fuel shortages were endemic for the entire campaign.
If tankers were unnecessary to North African supply, there would have been no fuel shortage and no need to send tankers. Yet, in each case, tankers were sent and, when they failed to arrive, the Axis forces were left without of fuel and LOST the resultant battle every time. No alternative method EXISTED by which to deliver the required fuel.
Tankers weren't unnecessary - they just weren't the only way to send fuel to North Africa. In the examples you mention, the crisis for the Axis was not brought about by the loss of the tankers, but rather by the loss of the fuel they carried.
4) Warships will not transport fuel, cargo, or combat brigades. No combat brigade was ever transferred by these means that I know of. This applies to submarines and destroyers and anything else. The concept that submarines could supply North Africa is imaginary. If they could have, they would have. The fact that someone tried it does not mean it was successful. On the contrary, it was not. Destroyers can be used for transferring replacement troops but not equipment - not so much as a single truck...
Hitler actually suggested using submarines to resupply North Africa in 1941, although his insights on the matter of resupplying North Africa were probably limited. In any case, warships were used regularly to resupply North Africa. In fact the Italians initiated a whole program to construct supply submarines, as per the link I provided earlier. The Millelire, also mentioned by Sadkovich, was an example. She was a decommissioned submarine which had been gutted in order to carry 600 tons of fuel, towed by a destroyer.

Edited my post because I erroneously took the Alberto Fassio as a cargo ship. The A. Fassio arrived at Tobruk with 2,040 tons of fuel on August 28th.

* The Anna Maria Gualdi, built 1908, was a cargo ship, formerly under UK and then US ownership. She was purchased from the United Fruit Company in 1940.
Last edited by Jon G. on 24 Nov 2006 22:41, edited 1 time in total.

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