Axis in Syria, 1941

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Kurt_Steiner
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Axis in Syria, 1941

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 19 Apr 2004 19:52

I know that, prior to the Allied occupation of Syria and Lebanon in 1941, there was a German military mission in the Vichy protectorates. They were withdrawn when General Catroux ordered them do so, to avoid giving the Allies a reason to attack. I've read also that the Vichy Air Force was reinforced by Italy and Germany before the attack began.

My question is, while the fighthing went on in Syria and Lebanon, did the Germans and the Italian send any kind of help there? Which kind of planes where sent before the invasion?

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Post by Jon G. » 20 Apr 2004 03:12

In March 1941 a German military mission was sent to Beirut in Lebanon, a French mandate territory that had been taken over by Vichy.

The military mission was led by colonel von Blomberg, IIRC son of the Blomberg who was CiC of the Heer until 1938. He died from a bullet hitting him even before his plane landed - apparently the local populace were celebrating the German planes' arrival with the old custom of firing their guns into the air, and a stray bullet hit von Blomberg in his temple.

I have not seen a complete TO&E for the German mission, but as far as I know, it consisted of a few He 111 bombers, and possibly a few Bf 110s too.

The Germans flew a few missions in support of Rashid Ali's coup in Iraq in April 1941, but I think this was the extent of their activities. The airfield the Germans were operating from was attacked by British planes flying out of Palestine, and instead of upscaling their commitment in the Levant, the Germans quietly backed out - the Luftwaffe had suffered great losses in the invasion of Crete in the same month, Rashid Ali's coup had failed, and Barbarossa was of course about to be launched...

IMHO, the Germans missed a great opportunity in the Levant and the Middle East - more determined support (or just coordination) with Rashid Ali and a larger military commitment could well have changed the war dramatically - still IMHO.

The Abwehr had had a profound interest in Iraq and northern Persia ever since the early 1930s - amongst other things surveying if it would be possible to deploy and supply two mountain divisions attacking towards Baku in order to seize and/or destroy the Soviet oil fields there. The study concluded that the infrastructure of Iran was sufficiently developed to support such an operation.

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Syria 1941

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 20 Apr 2004 10:14

Many thanks for the info, Shrek.

Once I saw a He 111 painted with Vichy colours, and the foot of the photograph said it was taken at Syria, so you confirm this.

Best regards

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Post by DrG » 20 Apr 2004 22:20

Italy sent to Iraq the "Squadrigla Speciale Irak" (commander: capt. Francesco Sforza) with 12 FIAT CR.42 Falco (one lost during the flight to Iraq), 1 SIAI-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero and 2 SIAI-Marchetti S.81 Pipistrello. All the airplanes were painted with Iraqi markings and their Italian crews were officially members of the Iraqi Air Force.
They reached Aleppo in Syria on 27 May 1941, then Mosul on the 28th. They sustained many engagements, but a few days later the Iraqi had to surrender, thus the remaining Italian airplanes (7 CR.42, 1 S.79 and 1 S.81) returned to Aleppo on 31 May. There a S.79 was destroyed by a British bombinbg before its return to Italy; no Italian airplanes were left in Syria.

During the 1930's Italy had helped Iraqi anti-British factions and sold to it 15 Breda 65 attack airplanes (2 in training 2-seater version) and 5 SIAI-Marchetti S.79B Sparviero. They were all lost during the Iraqi uprising. The most influential pro-Italian Iraqi, Col. Jewad, commander of the Iraqi Royal Air Force, was murdered in unclear circumstances (maybe by British agents) in 1937, shortly after his return from his mission in Italy for the acquisition of the 20 airplanes that I've mentioned.

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Re: Syria 1941

Post by Jon G. » 21 Apr 2004 00:43

Kurt_Steiner wrote:Many thanks for the info, Shrek.

Once I saw a He 111 painted with Vichy colours, and the foot of the photograph said it was taken at Syria, so you confirm this.

Best regards


There is a pretty well-known pic of a crashed He 111 in Syria. IIRC, this plane is painted in Iraqi colurs, not Vichy livery... if this is the picture you are thinking about? I have been googling around for it, but I can't find it.

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Syrian 1941

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 21 Apr 2004 16:54

Dear Shreak

No. The picture belongs to the HISTORY OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR, by Sir Basil Lidell Hart, pg, 120, vol 2. It has the svastika painted in his tail (the tail is the only part visible of the plane) which someone has tried to erase it. It has the colours of the French flag painted on it. A soldier is pointing out to the svastika.

Does this ring a bell to you?

Many thanks for your info, DrG

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Apr 2004 23:46

No, that rings no bells... Is the plane identified as a He 111 only from its tail? Is there a date for the picture?

It could be that Vichy took over some of the German military mission's planes. German-Vichy cooperation was pretty close in 1941.

Alternatively, the plane may have been 'doctored' for propaganda purposes; there were a lot of bad feelings involved in the liberation of Lebanon and Syria, with Free French forces fighting on one side and Vichy troops on the other.

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Post by Harri » 22 Apr 2004 18:10

Weren't there German Messerschmitt Bf 110s in Iraq (having Iraqi AF markings)? So why not also He 111? Plane was also used as a fast passenger and courier aircraft as well as in special reconnaissance duties.

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Post by Jon G. » 22 Apr 2004 19:22

Harri wrote:Weren't there German Messerschmitt Bf 110s in Iraq (having Iraqi AF markings)? So why not also He 111? Plane was also used as a fast passenger and courier aircraft as well as in special reconnaissance duties.


The German military mission mentioned originally arrived in Beirut. Their planes flew out of Vichy territory - Lebanon and Syria. I don't think any German planes were ever deployed to Iraq proper.

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Post by Harri » 22 Apr 2004 23:52

I have seen Bf 110s with Iraqi national emblems in a photo. I think there were two planes flying.

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Post by DrG » 23 Apr 2004 00:42

The Germans had sent to Iraq the "Flieger Fuhrer Irak", commanded by Col. W. Junck. It reached the airports of Baghdad and Kirkuk already on 10 May 1941 and was composed of:
- 14 Messerschmitt Bf 110
- 7 Heinkel He 111
- 3 Junkers Ju 88
- a few Junkers Ju 52
All the airplanes, like the Italian ones employed in Iraq, were painted with Iraqi markings and officially belonged to the Iraqi Air Force.
I don't know if any of those airplanes was left in Syria after the retreat at the end of May, but I think it's possible that a He 111 damaged by a British attack might have been left in that country (we shall remember that the wreck of an Italian S.79 was left in Aleppo) and then re-painted with French colours after its internment by Vichy France, or, in my opinion more probably, after having been captured by the Free French.
In my source (an article in Aerei nella Storia n°7 ago. sett. 1999) there is also a profile of a Bf 110D-34 in Iraqi markings that was from the 4./ZG 76.

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Post by DrG » 23 Apr 2004 01:10

A Bf 110D in Iraqi markings:
Image
I don't know what the tail of the He 111 in the photo seen by Kurt Steiner looked like, but if it was like the tail of this Bf 110 it's possible it wasn't painted in French colours, but in Iraqi green-white-red-black (I think it's hard to distinguish green from blue in a black-and-white photo).
Moreover, if that He 111 had belonged to Vichy France, it should have had the red-yellow stripes imposed by the Armistice Commission (see the markings of Vichy France: http://www.skytamer.com/roundels/france/03.htm).

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Post by Jon G. » 23 Apr 2004 07:13

You are right DrG, the Germans actually flew on to Baghdad. Also, von Blomberg was a major, not a colonel as I previously stated. This perhaps underlines the small size of the German commitment in the Middle East.

The British were warned about the Germans coming to the Levant by intercepted Enigma signals.

The first skirmish involving the Germans was between a Blenheim and (I think) a Bf 110 on May 13th over northern Iraq - presumably, the German plane was flying out of Syria.

An interesting what if could be to examine what might happen if the Luftwaffe had deployed its 7th airborne division to the Middle East instead of to Crete, as they historically did on May 20th.

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Post by kfbr392 » 02 Dec 2004 07:29

hi,

i read that germany purchased 24 artillery guns from the syrian vichy gonvernment in april 1941 to have them sent presumably with other weapons to support the iraqi insurgency ... of that time :-).
the french then did not allow the train to leave syria.

who was details?

a+
matt

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 01 Dec 2007 15:21

Photo from Kurowski's Deutsche Kommandotrupps 1939-1945

He 111 in Iraqi colours
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