Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

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Geoffrey Cooke
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Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Geoffrey Cooke » 30 Nov 2022 16:32

There were frequent raids of each sides’ weather stations on the Svalbard archipelago, but never serious attempts by either side to use it long term for major military operations, which seems strange to me.

I’m aware that the ice line during the arctic winter extends south to the point of bear island, rendering long-term anchorage for heavy warships difficult. But the Germans establishing air bases and a generally more permanent military presence on Spitsbergen would have rendered the earlier summer convoys that lasted until September 1942 impossible. The there is Bear Island which is located immediately next to the winter routes, and usually it’s southern coast wasn’t covered by the ice line, and that it would significantly up the threat to the winter routes. The Germans were certainly able to do quick sorties and unload forces due to the short distances involved compared with the USN and RN sailing from Scotland and Iceland, as demonstrated during Operartion Silizien/Zitronella. On the flip side securing those areas with strong forces early on not only helps the Arctic convoys but puts a greater threat on the Norwegian coast, making allied against northern Scandinavian operations more viable or at least the danger means even more Germans tied down in Norway than historically. The Allies don’t need these things to win, they won without it, but it’s an interesting counter factual from both sides.

And regarding Jan Mayen and Iceland; ok, a German invasion of Iceland is pretty unimaginable, but Jan Mayen is just close enough ask wether it was ever under any threat.

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 30 Nov 2022 18:25

There were discussions that never got to any serious planning stage. German littoral operations on the west European coast end at Norway & the Jersey islands. There was perhaps one target worth a large scale raid, but I don't think they every identified it. On Greenlands coast there was the only know exploitable source of Cryolite. The Brits had opened that mine decades earlier & during WWII the mineral about doubled the efficiency of the Allies in Aluminum production. Specifically it greatly reduces the melting and separation temperature of Bauxite, about halving the time and power requirement for smelting Bauxite ore into production grade Aluminum. That gave the Brits and US a huge leg up in aircraft production. Had the Germans somehow managed to raid that mine and shut down extraction for some months it would have been worth the possible cost.

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by thaddeus_c » 01 Dec 2022 00:29

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
30 Nov 2022 18:25
There were discussions that never got to any serious planning stage. German littoral operations on the west European coast end at Norway & the Jersey islands. There was perhaps one target worth a large scale raid, but I don't think they every identified it. On Greenlands coast there was the only know exploitable source of Cryolite. The Brits had opened that mine decades earlier & during WWII the mineral about doubled the efficiency of the Allies in Aluminum production. Specifically it greatly reduces the melting and separation temperature of Bauxite, about halving the time and power requirement for smelting Bauxite ore into production grade Aluminum. That gave the Brits and US a huge leg up in aircraft production. Had the Germans somehow managed to raid that mine and shut down extraction for some months it would have been worth the possible cost.
the book Luftwaffe over America (actually pretty good despite the cheesy title) lists both the cryolite mine on Greenland and the processing plant in Pittsburgh(!) as targets.

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 01 Dec 2022 05:48

The title sounds familiar.

thaddeus_c
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by thaddeus_c » 01 Dec 2022 14:49

the issue for the German side with Arctic islands is similar to what they faced with the southern islands (Canaries. Azores, et al), they might be able to occupy them but they decided they could not hold or resupply. some of Adm. Raeder's plans were termed "island madness" by the Heer.

my view the Arctic islands would be worth the effort, but they needed to eclipse the Allied Operation Gauntlet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gauntlet

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Peter89 » 07 Dec 2022 18:31

Such a plan would require extremely good cooperation between the LW, the KM and the Heer, and a great amount of luck on the German side, neither of which was present in the OTL.

Also the British would never let Iceland slip from their fingers for a simple reason: they had to control the Denmark Straits in order to prevent the return of blockade runners and the outbreak of commerce raiders into the Atlantic.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by thaddeus_c » 08 Dec 2022 15:06

Peter89 wrote:
07 Dec 2022 18:31
Such a plan would require extremely good cooperation between the LW, the KM and the Heer, and a great amount of luck on the German side, neither of which was present in the OTL.

Also the British would never let Iceland slip from their fingers for a simple reason: they had to control the Denmark Straits in order to prevent the return of blockade runners and the outbreak of commerce raiders into the Atlantic.
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?

they could have held back the Bismarck and schemed a capture of Svalbard (along with Bear Island), the prospects for the Allied Arctic Convoys would look much different.

the British have the advantage with Iceland (and of course the Faroe Islands) whereas the Germans have the advantage with Svalbard.

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Peter89 » 08 Dec 2022 15:58

thaddeus_c wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:06
Peter89 wrote:
07 Dec 2022 18:31
Such a plan would require extremely good cooperation between the LW, the KM and the Heer, and a great amount of luck on the German side, neither of which was present in the OTL.

Also the British would never let Iceland slip from their fingers for a simple reason: they had to control the Denmark Straits in order to prevent the return of blockade runners and the outbreak of commerce raiders into the Atlantic.
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?

they could have held back the Bismarck and schemed a capture of Svalbard (along with Bear Island), the prospects for the Allied Arctic Convoys would look much different.

the British have the advantage with Iceland (and of course the Faroe Islands) whereas the Germans have the advantage with Svalbard.
The Germans were mostly interested in weather reports. These islands (Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitzbergen) were close to complete unusefulness as bases of operation.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

thaddeus_c
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by thaddeus_c » 09 Dec 2022 11:43

Peter89 wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:58
thaddeus_c wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:06
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?

they could have held back the Bismarck and schemed a capture of Svalbard (along with Bear Island), the prospects for the Allied Arctic Convoys would look much different.

the British have the advantage with Iceland (and of course the Faroe Islands) whereas the Germans have the advantage with Svalbard.
The Germans were mostly interested in weather reports. These islands (Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitzbergen) were close to complete unusefulness as bases of operation.
the Allies staged Operation Gauntlet to spoil the use of Svalbard but choose not to occupy (in large measure) because the Axis had an advantage in air operations by virtue their position in Norway.

I'll go with their analysis of both the value of Svalbard and the relative strength of the Axis in the area.

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Peter89 » 09 Dec 2022 12:28

thaddeus_c wrote:
09 Dec 2022 11:43
Peter89 wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:58
thaddeus_c wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:06
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?

they could have held back the Bismarck and schemed a capture of Svalbard (along with Bear Island), the prospects for the Allied Arctic Convoys would look much different.

the British have the advantage with Iceland (and of course the Faroe Islands) whereas the Germans have the advantage with Svalbard.
The Germans were mostly interested in weather reports. These islands (Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitzbergen) were close to complete unusefulness as bases of operation.
the Allies staged Operation Gauntlet to spoil the use of Svalbard but choose not to occupy (in large measure) because the Axis had an advantage in air operations by virtue their position in Norway.

I'll go with their analysis of both the value of Svalbard and the relative strength of the Axis in the area.
I never said a word about the relative strength of the Axis in the area.

But the Germans simply did not have the strength to capitalize on the possession of these islands; Allied perception of the German capabilities in 1942 was exaggerated. They were seriously considering the Germans breaking into the Middle East from the Caucasus - do you go with that assessment, too? Appeal to authority does not really work here.

The Allies (the British in particular) wanted to eliminate the chances of the German victory and thus overestimated the German capability and the will to break out of mainland Europe.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Urmel » 09 Dec 2022 21:04

thaddeus_c wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:06
Peter89 wrote:
07 Dec 2022 18:31
Such a plan would require extremely good cooperation between the LW, the KM and the Heer, and a great amount of luck on the German side, neither of which was present in the OTL.

Also the British would never let Iceland slip from their fingers for a simple reason: they had to control the Denmark Straits in order to prevent the return of blockade runners and the outbreak of commerce raiders into the Atlantic.
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?
Why would they? The expectation was that the war against the USSR was going to be over by autumn, and then it would be against England again. This wasn't the KM's fault, but that of the Heer clowns who had intel on the Red Army that was so ludicrously wrong, it beggars belief.
4.) Apart from these possible operations against the British position of power in the Mediterranean, the “Siege of England” has to be restarted in full by the navy and the air force after the closure of the campaign in the East.

All armament measures serving this aim therefore have priority in the overall armament planning. At the same time it will be necessary to strengthen the German air defense to the highest degree. Preparations for a landing in England will have to serve the twin aim to tie down English forces in the mother land and to trigger and complete an expected collapse of England by an invasion.
https://rommelsriposte.com/2020/06/11/m ... june-1941/
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Urmel
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Urmel » 09 Dec 2022 21:06

thaddeus_c wrote:
09 Dec 2022 11:43
Peter89 wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:58
thaddeus_c wrote:
08 Dec 2022 15:06
the decision to invade the USSR was made by early 1941, but the KM does not seem to have recalibrated for that endeavor? they seem for lack of a better term "trying to score points" continuing the naval war with GB?

they could have held back the Bismarck and schemed a capture of Svalbard (along with Bear Island), the prospects for the Allied Arctic Convoys would look much different.

the British have the advantage with Iceland (and of course the Faroe Islands) whereas the Germans have the advantage with Svalbard.
The Germans were mostly interested in weather reports. These islands (Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitzbergen) were close to complete unusefulness as bases of operation.
the Allies staged Operation Gauntlet to spoil the use of Svalbard but choose not to occupy (in large measure) because the Axis had an advantage in air operations by virtue their position in Norway.

I'll go with their analysis of both the value of Svalbard and the relative strength of the Axis in the area.
You might want to ask yourself what the rational decision of the Allies, not to occupy Svalbard, means for the ability of the Germans to occupy (and hold) Svalbard.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

thaddeus_c
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by thaddeus_c » 11 Dec 2022 10:01

Urmel wrote:
09 Dec 2022 21:06
You might want to ask yourself what the rational decision of the Allies, not to occupy Svalbard, means for the ability of the Germans to occupy (and hold) Svalbard.
already answered that above, the Allies judged it as an area within easy reach of the LW, and thus not worth their effort. they also have aircraft carriers, are holding Iceland and the Faroes (and depending on the timeframe, the Soviets are part of the Allies thus they have Murmansk also.)

Adm. Raeder had already eyed the Faroes as prospective uboat base(s), simply pointing out that Svalbard (which includes Bear Island) a much more likely location.

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Urmel
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Urmel » 11 Dec 2022 10:37

thaddeus_c wrote:
11 Dec 2022 10:01
Adm. Raeder had already eyed the Faroes as prospective uboat base(s), simply pointing out that Svalbard (which includes Bear Island) a much more likely location.
Much more likely than what? Totally unlikely? The Germans suffered highly effective raids on the Lofoten, much closer to Norway than Svalbard, in 1941. What do you think would have happened to Svalbard? Air cover doesn't work so well to defend against a raid when it's dark and the weather is rubbish. Neither the Faroes nor Svalbard nor Iceland were options for occupation.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Peter89
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Re: Arctic/Atlantic island hopping?

Post by Peter89 » 11 Dec 2022 11:09

thaddeus_c wrote:
11 Dec 2022 10:01
Urmel wrote:
09 Dec 2022 21:06
You might want to ask yourself what the rational decision of the Allies, not to occupy Svalbard, means for the ability of the Germans to occupy (and hold) Svalbard.
already answered that above, the Allies judged it as an area within easy reach of the LW, and thus not worth their effort. they also have aircraft carriers, are holding Iceland and the Faroes (and depending on the timeframe, the Soviets are part of the Allies thus they have Murmansk also.)

Adm. Raeder had already eyed the Faroes as prospective uboat base(s), simply pointing out that Svalbard (which includes Bear Island) a much more likely location.
Pardon me for saying so, but I seriously doubt that Raeder, an educated naval person would come up with anything like that. An U-boat base twice as far from the closest ports and airfields in Norway than from Scapa Flow? Seriously? Could you please provide a source for this? Maybe the context can explain it.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

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