Question on composition of Italian forces in NA without...

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JeffreyF
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Question on composition of Italian forces in NA without...

Post by JeffreyF » 01 Nov 2004 00:52

expedition to Russia or occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece?

I guess the first question would be that of could Greece neutrality or participation have been possible if Italy did not invade?

Would Yugoslavia have also been able to avoid entry into the war or was it destined to be used by either the Allies or the Axis?

In reading google groups I came across this entry in a news group which is why I am asking these questions. Of course I'm just basing this on othe guess that these figures are somewhat correct.
Perhaps to eternally puzzle historians, the Italian military and political
leadership seemed to be fighting the war for Russia rather than North
Africa. In 1941, the Italian corps in Russia had 5,500 vehicles (partly
sucked from stockpiles earmarked for North Africa) and 16 of its 148 guns
were precious 75/46 high velocity guns, whose subtraction from the African
front was sorely felt as a contemporary document proves. In 1942, the
following material was diverted to the Russian front:

- the only group (battalion) of 210/22 heavy howitzers existing,
- 36 149/40 heavy cannons out of 51 existing,
- 24 out of the 38 German-produced 149/28 howitzers available,
- 72 modern 75/18 divisional field guns,
- one fourth of the few modern 75/46 AA guns available,
- the only German-made 75/38 antitank guns available,
- the only 36 modern 75/32 guns by then produced, also used in antitank
role,
- in all, 588 guns all calibers,
- nearly 100 aircraft,
- 31 light tanks and 19 light AT SP guns,
- 16,700 trucks and cars (only 7,000 running in North Africa - and 6,650
more were needed to achieve an acceptable degree of motorization), 1,130
artillery tractors, 4,000 motorcycles, 224 20 mm AA guns, 423 81 mm mortars,
1,742 machineguns and a lot more stuff.

.... and many ships sailed to North Africa with half-empty holds. No wonder
most scholars in Italy state that material, if sent to NA instead of being
uselessly regaled the Soviets with, would have made some difference in the
desert.
If these forces plus those utilized in Greece and Yugoslavia had not been commited would it have been possible to have less troops committed to Africa with better mobilization and heavy equipment ratio? Or would the fuel supply requirement have gone up too much to keep such troops supplied? Was it better to keep the British busy in Greece and Crete or to have the Centauro and other units/equipment available in Libia?

Thanks.

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David W
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Post by David W » 01 Nov 2004 09:47

This is a very interesting question. I will be keen to hear what others have to say.
F.W.I.W, I think the biggest problem is going to be adequately supplying any additional Italian forces in the North African theatre. Bear in mind that of the three ports used by the Axis, only one (Tripoli) was in their hands for the entire campaign. Also look at the ports capacities, and compare them with the requirements of a typical Italian or German Division.

Tripoli: 45,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Benghasi: 24,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.
Tobruk: 18,000 Tonnes per Month maximum.

Typical Monthly requirements of an Italian Division: 8,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM. German Division: 11,000 Tonnes per Month MINIMUM.
Do the sums and you will see how stretched the Axis were in supplying the existing forces, never mind having to cope with even more.

Perhaps the Italians best plan would be to keep the size of the force in North Africa much the same as it was. But to ensure it had the best quality units, with the best quality equipment. Most especially exchanging non mobile infantry units with motorised ones or armour.Whilst at the same time, making the increase in port capacity a priority job.
More high quality units, and a committment to not advance beyond Tobruk until adequate German forces arrive would have been a good (if politically unacceptable) Italian strategy.
Also an increase in Italian naval operations against allied shipping might have made a diference. As might a greater presence of the Italian airforce.
Jeffrey makes a good point about the Greek campaign tying up Allied units that would otherwise have been in North Africa. This is a point for all to consider in their replies.



To summarise: I.M.H.O unless port capacity is increased the proposed increase in the size of Italian forces available for the North African campaign, at the expense of Greece etc will have little or no effect on the outcome.

Over to you!

All the best............ Dave.

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Post by JeffreyF » 01 Nov 2004 10:58

I'm not saying that there should have been additional forces. More along the lines of reducing the infantry divisions by replacing them with motorized formations or at least changing out part of the infantry divisions base rifle platoons with heavy weapons eg mg, mortar sections if possible.

As I understand it the divisional manpower goals were reduced and equipment levels raised although this rarely happened in reality, afaik. With the additional equipment there would at least appear the ability to motorize the infantry divisions present. However would the transports that found their way to east front be worth using in Africa in any decent percentage?

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Post by Andy H » 01 Nov 2004 11:46

The port capacity was the real bug in the Axis supply situation, rather than Allied intervention of the Axis convoys (though they did tie up Italian Naval assets, and used up vital fuel oil).

The Italians realised this very early, and they constantly asked the Germans for help in either getting the Vichy ports to accept Axis cargo, or help in taking them by force in 1940. Germany wasn't willing to do either, and when they did it was far to late.

Abu El Banat

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 01 Nov 2004 13:00

Materials sent in Russia were sufficient to give to african army full motorization and a modern artillery (I mean, practically all modern guns built after 1938 ended in Russia while african army had to use WWI stuff). I believe 100 modern 75mm AT guns more would have been of some difference at Alamein and not only...
It's a trouble of quality, not quantity

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Post by JeffreyF » 01 Nov 2004 17:26

Something obvious I didn't think of was radios. How many radios would this have freed up for North Africa and allowed for better flow of communications. On the at guns. Would it not be most likely that the Germans would hand over the French 75mm on pak38 carraige to Hungarian or Romanian forces if Italians weren't in the theatre? Did any modern field pieces smaller than the 149/40 see action in Africa as part of an artillery regiment?

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Post by DrG » 04 Nov 2004 13:36

As rightly pointed out by Andy H and Daivd W any increase in the numbers of trucks was logistically impossible (by the way, there were spare trucks also in Italy without need of taking them away from the ARMIR = Italian Army in Russia); those less than 100 aircrafts were all (except a dozen of Macchi C.200 and a couple of C.202 fighters) light recon or transport airplanes, not needed in N. Africa.
The problem of artilleries is, besides the very probable chance that Germany (focusing its strategy on the Eastern Front) wouldn't have sold them to Italy if not employed in Russia (as rightly thinks JeffreyF), that with the assumption that they were sent to replace older guns or to increase their numbers in N. A. people forget these things:
- in Russia the Italians had to face better enemy tanks than in N. A.
- in N. A. the support of German artillery was very close, being Italian and German forces fighing together, even mixed to battalion or company level,
- instead in Russia the ARMIR had to garrison nearly 300 km of front pratically without any direct German support.
- the German strategy was to knock USSR out of war before UK, any Italian diversion from this scheme would have been just a waste of resources of the Axis and thus, pratically, a new version of the [too] much criticized "parallel war" of 1940.
- those figures do not tell us how many artillery pieces and of what kind were used in N. Africa (given the smaller scale of forces employed there and the far shorter front I wouldn't be surprised to discover that, proportionally, that front had more modern artillery pieces than Russia). I would appreciate if anybody can provide me detailed data about Italian (and German) artillery in N. Africa to compare them with Russia.

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David W
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Post by David W » 04 Nov 2004 16:43

DrG.
If you pick a fixed date to do your artillery comparison, I should be able to provide you with the type & numbers of Italian & German pieces for North Africa. :)
I will be of no use in compiling the figures for the Russian front though. :oops:

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Post by JeffreyF » 04 Nov 2004 18:22

Probably the best time periods for artillery comparison would be the start of major operations when their numbers would have been at the highest?

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Post by DrG » 04 Nov 2004 18:24

David W, thank you for your kind offer.
I think the best time would be July or August of 1942, so that those data can be compared with those of the ARMIR in Russia provided by JeffreyF. I would like to know, expecially, if and how many of the guns listed by Jeffrey as sent in Russia were also present in N. Africa: like the 149/40 (15 out of 51 or less?, for example), 149/28 (14?), 75/18, 75/46.
Once known these data we might know also those of the Germans, but I would start with just those Italian guns (thus to compare the two fronts in those aspects that are easily comparable).

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Post by JeffreyF » 04 Nov 2004 19:38

75/18 was a mountain howitzer, iirc so besides on semovente it would not be present in NA, no? 75/32 was the version for motorized troops and would be the one I would expect to be present in both places. Although as usual I'm probably in the wrong I will admit.

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Post by David W » 04 Nov 2004 20:06

July/August 1942 Italian only.

O.K Watch this space.

I may need 24 Hrs.

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Post by DrG » 04 Nov 2004 20:22

JeffreyF wrote:75/18 was a mountain howitzer, iirc so besides on semovente it would not be present in NA, no? 75/32 was the version for motorized troops and would be the one I would expect to be present in both places. Although as usual I'm probably in the wrong I will admit.
:idea: I didn't think about this; thus we may exclude another piece of equipment from that list, after the trucks and airplanes.

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Post by JeffreyF » 04 Nov 2004 21:10

David W wrote:July/August 1942 Italian only.

O.K Watch this space.

I may need 24 Hrs.
I would enjoy seeing a comparison of this to at least British if not too much trouble. As it seems the British strategy was to irradicate Italian infantry divisions through concentrated bombardment before dealing with mobile forces.

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Post by Lupo Solitario » 04 Nov 2004 21:21

JeffreyF wrote:75/18 was a mountain howitzer, iirc so besides on semovente it would not be present in NA, no? 75/32 was the version for motorized troops and would be the one I would expect to be present in both places. Although as usual I'm probably in the wrong I will admit.
No Jeff they were two different weapons:

the 75/18mm was an howitzer; it existed in two version: model 34 packed for mountain artillery and model 35 towed for motorized artillery.

the 75/32mm was a field cannon, used mainly in AT role, towed for motorized artillery.

Either had been mounted on M tank hulls but while semoventi 75/18 appeared in late 1941 (and fought at Alam Halfa, Alamein, etc.), semoventi 75/32 appeared only in 1943.

I'm sure that:
no 75/32 towed was ever used in NA
no 75/18 towed was used in NA before Alamein; I'm not sure about Tunisia
bye

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