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What if Italy Chose Neutrality?

 
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What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/11/2013 12:37:32 AM   
Footslogger

 

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Sometimes I wonder what would happen if Italy had not join the Axis powers, but instead remained neutral.

There would be no need to send forces to North Afrika for instance.(no Afrika Korps)

What do you think?

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/11/2013 1:50:29 AM   
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Gerams would have been better off with out them for sure

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/11/2013 2:44:57 AM   
TulliusDetritus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Pelton

Gerams would have been better off with out them for sure





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< Message edited by TulliusDetritus -- 2/11/2013 2:45:06 AM >


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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/11/2013 1:53:48 PM   
Klydon


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A couple of things come to mind right away.

First, the British could route naval traffic through the Med instead of around the cape. I don't think it would have changed much for the Royal Navy from the standpoint that they would still maintain a Med squad to keep an eye on the Italians.

The next question would be what political success would Hitler have enjoyed in the Balkans without Italy being active in the war? Granted there would be no Greek invasion (although the Italians may have tried it anyway, even as a neutral against the Allies, but for this, we will assume they are content to stay at home), but I supposed the result would have been the same with Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria. What would have happen with Yugoslavia is open to question since there would be no Allied intervention in Greece.

The Allies would be able to send more aid to the Russians as well most likely.

Later in the war, the Allies would not be distracted with the Med theater of operations and probably could have pulled off an invasion of Europe in 1943 instead of doing Africa and the Italian campaign.

What it would mean in WiTE terms is the Germans may have more units to play with to start Barbarossa (including 2nd and 5th Panzer), but by spring of 1943, they would have more units to withdraw for Western Europe.

< Message edited by Klydon -- 2/11/2013 1:54:38 PM >

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/11/2013 10:19:06 PM   
Dili

 

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quote:

I don't think it would have changed much for the Royal Navy from the standpoint that they would still maintain a Med squad to keep an eye on the Italians.


Well the Royal Navy for start wouldn't have lost a Battleship , plus 1 torpedoed and 2 sunk in harbor and recovered , returned for service more than a year latter, 2 aircraft carriers sunk, plus 2 or 3 heavily damaged, several cruisers and destroyers sunk and hvy damaged and around 50 submarines sunk.


Maybe Italians would have discovered oil in Libya in 1941 or 1942, or 1943...which would make an interesting situation...

< Message edited by Dili -- 2/11/2013 10:23:32 PM >


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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 3:35:30 AM   
Footslogger

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Dili

quote:

I don't think it would have changed much for the Royal Navy from the standpoint that they would still maintain a Med squad to keep an eye on the Italians.


Well the Royal Navy for start wouldn't have lost a Battleship , plus 1 torpedoed and 2 sunk in harbor and recovered , returned for service more than a year latter, 2 aircraft carriers sunk, plus 2 or 3 heavily damaged, several cruisers and destroyers sunk and hvy damaged and around 50 submarines sunk.


Maybe Italians would have discovered oil in Libya in 1941 or 1942, or 1943...which would make an interesting situation...



Dili you have a point. But how many German men, tanks and planes were lost to the Allies? It may have been possible for neutral Italy to sell that oil, to Hitler, right up to the very end of Germany.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 4:24:55 AM   
Klydon


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Dili

quote:

I don't think it would have changed much for the Royal Navy from the standpoint that they would still maintain a Med squad to keep an eye on the Italians.


Well the Royal Navy for start wouldn't have lost a Battleship , plus 1 torpedoed and 2 sunk in harbor and recovered , returned for service more than a year latter, 2 aircraft carriers sunk, plus 2 or 3 heavily damaged, several cruisers and destroyers sunk and hvy damaged and around 50 submarines sunk.


Maybe Italians would have discovered oil in Libya in 1941 or 1942, or 1943...which would make an interesting situation...


A lot of those losses were caused by U-Boats, which the Germans may have decided to try to deploy to the Med anyway. Granted the chances are very high the British would not have sent carriers there simply because there really wasn't a reason to have one in there if the Italians were neutral, although a strong arguement could be made to have one based out of Gibraltar.

My original point was the British would not have pulled ships out of the Med in 1940 and beyond just because Italy was not in the war. They would have stayed there to watch the Italian fleet just in case El Duce decided to get frisky and try something.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 12:53:48 PM   
Offworlder

 

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Politically, Italy could not stay neutral for the whole war. Despite everything and the past diplomatic u-turns which both Italy and Germany performed between 1936 and 1939, they were intertwined, so to speak, in the international arena. However, it should be noted that Germany never really wanted Italy to join the war while Italy probably had a leadership that apprecieated Allied strengths more than its German counterparts. In effect, British and French actions, be it over the invasion of Abyssinia, Czechoslovakian crisis and the Spanish Civil War, essentially pushed Mussolini in Hitler's camp. In fact the lack of resolve shown by the British and French governments over the numerous breaches of the Versailles treaty by Germany contrasted sharply with their way of dealing with Italy over its Abyssinian adventure...

Having said that, Mussolini had ample reasons to stay out of the war. He knew that his military was neither large enough nor well equipped to fight a protracted war. He also knew that he had to rely on imports of strategic materials and fuels which could not be fulfilled by the Germans when these were expanding their own industry and armed forces. Finally, he knew that the top brass of the armed forces were hostile to the Germans and that his people were not ready to fight a bloody war.

Therefore, one particular issue propelled him in the war - the need to satisfy national honour while maintaining the standing of Italy in international eyes. It should be kept in mind that between 1936/7 and 1940, Germany gained a lot of diplomatic credit on the basis of its economic policies vis-a-vis other states, its overall aggressiveness and ultimately its victories. Germany had started to supplant Italy as the main actor and arbiter in the Balkans (see the rapid succession of commercial and military pacts concluded in the area between '38 and 40). This in part, explains Mussolini's entrance in the war for only through victories could he hope to regain his standing in the eyes of the world.

Having said that, Italy's neutrality would have given the allies several advantages, namely short shipping routes, the isolation of Vichy colonies (especially Syria and Lebanon), the possiblity of winning over Turkey and other Mediterranean and Balkan countries for their cause and the possibility of putting more pressure on Franco in Spain. It should be borne in mind that from a German perspective, the Mediterranean was not that attractive as a theatre of war, since they stood to gain little from occupying the lands there. Therefore, my guess is that a neutral Italy would have either 1) been treated like a pariah by the international community or 2) end up serving as a place where the allies and Germany could actually come to peace - a role which Italy had already played in the past.

As to the material gains that the allies would have had, that is contingent upon whether Japan came into the equation, but I guess with the arrival of ANZAC and Indian troops in Britain could have reinforced the isles at a critical juncture or if they remained in the east, the Japanese would have found it that much harder to have 'their' six months. From a German perspective, Hitler would have gained several divisions for his fight in the East while being able to garrison more effectively the west (with a lot of reinforcements going east as well).


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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 1:41:23 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Offworlder

Having said that, Mussolini had ample reasons to stay out of the war. He knew that his military was neither large enough nor well equipped to fight a protracted war. He also knew that he had to rely on imports of strategic materials and fuels which could not be fulfilled by the Germans when these were expanding their own industry and armed forces. Finally, he knew that the top brass of the armed forces were hostile to the Germans and that his people were not ready to fight a bloody war.

warspite1

But wasn't that the point? Mussolini only entered because he thought, with France prostrate, that it was going to be a short war. He had to get in quickly before it was over otherwise he could not share in the spoils - what was it? something like:

"I only have to present a few thousand dead at the peace table"

Nice.....

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 1:42:45 PM   
turtlefang

 

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I trend to agree with Offworlder on most of his analysis.

On the whole, Italy provided a plus to the German war effort. It required a lot of British resources to control the Med, then, the invasion of Italy tied up far more Allied resources than Axis.

Italy also provided a great deal of effective troops for garrisons/anti-partisan work in the Balkans for years. While Italian troops weren't first rate, they did fine in helping keep partisans under control and freed German troops.

And Italy provide a highly effective U Boat base in the Med, the Italian Navy represented a huge threat to Britian, and the Italian Air Force was effective.

The flip side - it required more troops than the Germans wanted to commit in the south, the Italian Army performed poorly, and Italy sucked up needed strategic resources. And the Italian forces in Russian fell apart when hit hard by the Soviets.

And given Hitler's paranoia, if Italy didn't enter the war on Germany's side, I think Germany would have invaded Italy. He would have feared that the allies would have invaded Italy to get to Germany and wouldn't have trusted the Italians to cover his flank. And once Germany occupied Italy, it then dominated the Med due to its position.

At the end of the day, a marginal plus. Another 25+ divisions in France for the Allies in 44 - all other things equal - could really have ended the war much sooner. Instead, these were tied up in Italy slugging through the mountains.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 3:12:28 PM   
warspite1


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Not much of a plus:

- Hitler gets embroilled in North Africa in order to avoid the Allies kicking Italy clean off the continent (although only a small commitment (compared to that in Russia) every little helps...
- Contribution of RM to Battle of Britain? Zero, total disaster and units withdrawn.
- Contribution of Italian subs to the Battle of the Atlantic? Negligible.
- Hitler gets embroilled in Southern Europe to sort out Italy's mess in Greece - as a follow-up to that campaign, the Germans lose the cream of their airborne troops and Hitler forbids their use as such again.
- Hitler gets embroilled in the Mediterranean, aircraft and u-boats, needed elsewhere, are required to prop-up the faltering Italian effort.
- The Italian 8th Army is responsible for holding part of the line in Russia during Blue; they fall apart when the Russians attack.
- Hitler diverts troops to Tunisia and then Italy.

Yes, there would have been more divisions available for the invasion of France but for those divisions, the valuble lessons the British and American armies learned having fought the Germans in North Africa would never have been learned.

Tieing up Royal Navy units in the Mediterranean and inflicting the odd loss, was not of great help. THE war, THE most important war, was being fought on land in the Soviet Union.

...I'm not getting the benefits here.

Oh and as for the Allies invading Italy, I suspect if anything was going to get the Italian soldier to fight, it was for a cause they believed in. Having home soil attacked tends to bring that reaction - ask the Soviets or the Americans

< Message edited by warspite1 -- 2/12/2013 3:32:43 PM >


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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 3:31:17 PM   
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As for opening the Second Front in the West in 1943, don't think it would have happened that soon. By not having to fight in the Med, the lessons learned from the landings in Morocco, Sicily and other Italian landings would not have been learned. Plus exposure to the German Armored Vehicles, their tactics and so forth would also not have been learned. Therefore, with that in mind, it would have been harder for the Allies to have gained a foothold in France sooner than they did. In addition, without Italy in the war, some aspects of the Strategic Bombing of Europe would have taken a different track. Shuttle raids would not have occurred in the manner that they did, and the LW assets in Italy could have been used in the defense of Germany, and an improved presence in Russia. So that aspect of the war would have probably played out differently. Assuming that Italy stayed neutral, and the War progressed differently, I think Germany would have ultimately lost but not in early 45, but possibly in middle to late 45 or even early 46. Italy played a minor role in most of the Italian campaign, and Germany entered the Med not as a choice but by necessity due to Italian blunders and poor strategies.

But it is an interesting question.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 3:47:18 PM   
Dili

 

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The reason that Mussolini entered the war, is that he thought that war was finished. warspite1: He said at time of declaring war to France and UK, give me 1000 causalities to be able to sit at Peace Conference. I think this appears in Ciano diaries, Ciano himself one of high rank Fascists was against the war.
After the war start for Italy(10 June 1940) the shipping companies were still making brochures for Atlantic and Mediterranean traveling for September 1940. Even at end of 1940 (more than 6 months) the effort against Malta was almost nothing with only 290t bombs dropped. No one wanted war in Italy not even Mussolini.


quote:

A lot of those losses were caused by U-Boats, which the Germans may have decided to try to deploy to the Med anyway.


The 3 heavily damaged battleships were by Italians, several cruisers were sunk and damaged. Med is a bad sea for submarine operations, the water is clearer and without same level of recon and intel they had the U-boats would have a much bad experience, besides the risk of hitting a neutral Italian merchant ship. So no i don't think they will send u-boats there beside some small numbers.

quote:

But how many German men, tanks and planes were lost to the Allies?


Several thousand(specially if we count the Tunisia Stalingrad II), but how many British/Commonwealth(don't forget them) resources were spent? if you look at numbers in North Africa the Allies had superiority since 1941.

I think the only good thing that Allies can say is the training they got helped them much later. Husky was the biggest naval invasion of history in the first day, a good training for D-Day but the Allied attack from Italy almost can be compared to the attack by Italians against Greece: overwhelming superiority - something that Italians even didn't have up until spring 1941 - for pitiful results. I have read that the Italian mainland combat was the only place that the Allies were on offensive in whole war that they got more causalities than the Axis.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/12/2013 4:07:47 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Dili

The reason that Mussolini entered the war, is that he thought that war was finished.

I think the only good thing that Allies can say is the training they got helped them much later.
warspite1

Yes, I made these two points above. If he thought it was going to be a long war and the result was in doubt, he would not have declared war on Britain and France.

I looked up the quote just now and this is what he is supposed to have said:

“I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought”

Mussolini in private to Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army

As I say, nice.....

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/13/2013 6:29:37 PM   
Klydon


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 3rd ACR Tanker

As for opening the Second Front in the West in 1943, don't think it would have happened that soon. By not having to fight in the Med, the lessons learned from the landings in Morocco, Sicily and other Italian landings would not have been learned. Plus exposure to the German Armored Vehicles, their tactics and so forth would also not have been learned. Therefore, with that in mind, it would have been harder for the Allies to have gained a foothold in France sooner than they did. In addition, without Italy in the war, some aspects of the Strategic Bombing of Europe would have taken a different track. Shuttle raids would not have occurred in the manner that they did, and the LW assets in Italy could have been used in the defense of Germany, and an improved presence in Russia. So that aspect of the war would have probably played out differently. Assuming that Italy stayed neutral, and the War progressed differently, I think Germany would have ultimately lost but not in early 45, but possibly in middle to late 45 or even early 46. Italy played a minor role in most of the Italian campaign, and Germany entered the Med not as a choice but by necessity due to Italian blunders and poor strategies.

But it is an interesting question.


A 1943 invasion would have also meant the Germans were not nearly as far along on the "Atlantic" wall as by 1944. The Allies had enough lift to land 7 divisions at Sicily.

Also remember what the German tank situation was in the spring of 43. Panthers were just coming in (and going to the east for Kursk) and Tigers had been introduced a couple of months earlier. The German armored force didn't have enough Panthers and Tigers yet (or the tank destroyers) to totally outclass the Western Allies in terms of quality compared to the difference in 1944.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/13/2013 7:28:32 PM   
Offworlder

 

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I think that the bulk of the people actually consider that Italy was essentially a drag on German resources, which to a certain extent, it was. However, its military forces weren't that bad had they been used in a more professional way. Everyone knows the lacunae of the army, but it did possess decent units, especially the motorised and armoured units, the Alpini, parachute and a few select infantry divisions. One can also add their special forces in the mix. Their airforce suffered more from outmoded tactics than simply bad aircraft. Also their fleet was not that bad either, and given a more gutsy command, some decent airsupport and radars, it could have performed much better. But obviously all this is pure conjecture.

However this might be said of every ally of Germany and of the bulk of Allied nations as well. Very few powers had well rounded military forces/industries really geared for war and many had defects that were exploited by their enemies. Therefore, though Italy is usually singled out as being particularly ill prepared for war, the same can be said of most major powers.

Having said this, Italy had little option but to enter the war with the fall of France. Its not only that it needed to be present at the peace table that mattered. What really mattered is that she was being squeezed out of everywhere diplomatically - not only in the Balkans but even in South America for example. Germany basically became ascendant on the continent while the UK/USA combo just dominated the rest of the world. Ironically, the French defeat could only be 'answered' with an Italian declaration of war (or so it seemed at that time).

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/13/2013 8:14:38 PM   
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Oh well, another thread where the German anti-Italian propaganda is swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Germany lost the war because of its own inadequacies and poor choices. Had nothing to do with its Allies. If anything, the contribution of Germany's allies, which includes Romania, Hungary et al, and not just Italy, provided a net benefit to the German war performance.

Just limiting ourselves to the impact of a neutral Italy and trying to avoid ground already covered by others.

1. About a million tons of Allied shipping would not have been sunk by Italian subs. Always very fashionable to belittle the performance of the Italian submarines. Pity the facts don't support the propaganda. Italian sub designs were not as efficient as some, but not all German designs, in the Battle of the Atlantic, but they did make a significant contribution. No Italian contribution, there were no spare German subs to replace them. Plus the entire Allied ASW effort could be even more concentrated on hunting the German U-boats.

2. No guarantee that Italian torpedo models, which were far superior to the German models, would have been given to the Germans.

3. No Italian naval bases, absolutely no meaningful U-boat presence in the Mediterranen. Sheer fantasy that U-boats, particularly the coastal classes such as the Type VII which formed the bulk of the U-boat fleet, would regularly run the very dangerous gauntlet of Gibraltar to get in and then quickly get out to refuel and rearm. So forget any idea of meaningful Allied ship losses in the Mediterranean.

4. Most of the valuable raw materials brought back from the Far East for the benefit of German industry were carried by the specially designed Italian cargo subs.

5. It is an open question whether Manstein could have captured Sevastapol in mid 1942 without the naval blockade provided by the Italian navy. Just another instance where the Germans grab all the credit and dismiss the contribution from the Allies. A delay here would have had ramifications on the subsequent AG South 1942 summer campaign. It certainly would have reduced to practically zero the chances of capturing the Caucasion oil fields which needed the Alpini. Their non use there is indicative of the muddled German planning which led to Operation Uranus.

6. Ah the Balkan Campaign of 1941. So easy to blame the Italians for forcing the Germans into it and thereby delaying Barbarosa. Let's look at the German self inflicted wounds here.

(a) the German invasion of Yugoslavia had absolutely nothing to do with Italy's war with Greece. Germany invaded solely because of the pro-Allied coup which occurred in Yugoslavia. The threat to his oil supplies from Romania (and to a far lesser degree Hungary too) which came up the Danube, was far too great for the Germans to ignore. Hence the decision to invade.

(b) having decided to invade Yugoslavia the German campaign benefited great from the contribution provided by its allies, foremost among them being the Italian contribution. In 1914 and early 1915 the Serbs were able to keep at bay the Austro-Hungarians because they were fighting on a single front. This was not the case in April 1941. Not only did they have to safeguard the Hungarian and Bulgarian frontiers (hint, you can check up yourselves from where came the German schwerpunkt) but there were two Italian fronts to also safeguard (Istria and Albania). Common to hear how rapidly the German units advanced. When was the last time anyone heard about the equally rapid advance of the Italian units out of Istria and Albania. Simply put the Yugoslavs were overwhelmed everywhere

(c) next up is Greece. Again the superficial line peddled is that the Germans got dragged in because Italy had stalled. The truth is that Greece again threatened German oil imports from Romania. Not this time by interdicting the Danube but by potentially hosting Allied bombers or replicating the WWI Salonika campaign. This threat had existed before Oct 1940 but with the pending Barbarosa, which absolutely needed to siphon off allied forces away from the area, it could no longer be overlooked

(d) having decided to invade Greece, the quick German victory greatly benefitted from the Italian contribution. Firstly, almost the entire Greek army was deployed against the Italians in the west. Secondly the Greek forces had run out of reserves of men and materiel. In fact it is quite conceivable that the reinforced Italian forces were in a position to advance in the summer against the Greeks unless the latter received massive support from Britain. One does not have to be a military genius to quickly capture terrain if there is very little opposing one. How well would the German Panzers have performed in the rugged Greek mountains up north if confronted by a fresh and concentrated Greek army. Thirdly Italian forces and bases materially assisted the capture of Crete. Even with their participation it was a very close run thing for the Germans. Without the Italian contribution, it is very hard to see how the Germans could have captured Crete.

7. Occupation troops. The Balkans were almost entirely garrisoned by Italian troops. The many anti-Tito operations were heavily dependent on Italian participation. There were no spare German forces and yet those areas had to be garrioned. The net result would have been fewer Germans available for the OstFront, which front was always critically short of troops. Let's not forget also the Italian forces employed in garrisoning ex-Vichy territory.

8. Barbarosa was always predicated on significant contributions from allies. Whilst not as large as the Rominian component, the Italian one was still large. It irks me how quickly the blame is sheeted home to the German allies for the success of Operation Uranus. No mention of the Italian victories prior to then. Plenty of examples of the same results from German units when confronted by first class soviet units, particularly in winter operations. Luftwaffe divisions were better equipped and they reguarly folded. Simple fact is that the Italians (and Romanians/Hungarians) were indispensable for manning the line from day 1 of Barbarosa. And whose idea was it to invade the USSR?

9. A neutral Italy would have developed an important aircraft export market to ... Britain. As it was Caproni already had a 1000 plane British order which was scuttled when Italy went to war. With guaranteed access to raw material, and the expected large profits to be earned, one could see that market developing in the future, such as including the excellent Re2005 fighter produced by a Caproni subsidiary. One can also envisage a neutral Italy providing advanced aircraft to the Dutch East Indies but that is another topic.

10. A neutral Italy would have been able to avoid financially supporting the German war effort. Yes, just like the conquered European territories, Germany's allies were forced into paying exorbitant rates for German imports. A neutral Italy, having a large merchant marine, would have had access to the Americas, Africa and Asia for its imports and in turn would have been in a better position to compete with Germany for export markets in europe. German economic exploitation of european countries and how that materially assisted the German war effort is one of those many areas which people overlook.


In 1996, Kenneth Macksey published From Triumph to Disaster which was subsequently reissued with the more accurate title, Why the Germans Lose at War: The Myth of German Military Superiority. Rather than blaming their allies, in this instance Italy, I suggest many would greatly benefit from reading this book.

Alfred

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 6:07:55 AM   
SigUp

 

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Cool down lad, nobody here suggested that Germany lost the war due to the inadaquacies of its allies. Some clearly stated that Italy provided a plus to the German war effort. Nevertheless, a good informative post, thanks.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 6:15:29 AM   
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quote:

ORIGINAL: SigUp

Cool down lad, nobody here suggested that Germany lost the war due to the inadaquacies of its allies. Some clearly stated that Italy provided a plus to the German war effort. Nevertheless, a good informative post, thanks.
warspite1

Well said.

On balance, I remain in the "Italy was a minus to the German cause" camp, but to suggest that Italy (or any of its allies) were the reason for the Germans losing, is not something that I can see anyone has said.

Some good thought provoking stuff here though.

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RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 2:28:06 PM   
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Offworlder

I think that the bulk of the people actually consider that Italy was essentially a drag on German resources, which to a certain extent, it was. However, its military forces weren't that bad had they been used in a more professional way. Everyone knows the lacunae of the army, but it did possess decent units, especially the motorised and armoured units, the Alpini, parachute and a few select infantry divisions. One can also add their special forces in the mix. Their airforce suffered more from outmoded tactics than simply bad aircraft. Also their fleet was not that bad either, and given a more gutsy command, some decent airsupport and radars, it could have performed much better. But obviously all this is pure conjecture.

However this might be said of every ally of Germany and of the bulk of Allied nations as well. Very few powers had well rounded military forces/industries really geared for war and many had defects that were exploited by their enemies. Therefore, though Italy is usually singled out as being particularly ill prepared for war, the same can be said of most major powers.

Having said this, Italy had little option but to enter the war with the fall of France. Its not only that it needed to be present at the peace table that mattered. What really mattered is that she was being squeezed out of everywhere diplomatically - not only in the Balkans but even in South America for example. Germany basically became ascendant on the continent while the UK/USA combo just dominated the rest of the world. Ironically, the French defeat could only be 'answered' with an Italian declaration of war (or so it seemed at that time).


Italy was a drag on the Allies for resources in WW1 and it was a drag on Germany in WW2. It is simply not a very resource rich country at all and needed to import raw materials.

Military; the Italian army had a lot of issues with equipment and doctrine. Wherever you want to start with equipment, that the Italians did as well as they did, it was inspite of their equipment. Machineguns that needed oilers is always a note for success anywhere, especially the desert. Italian troops in Africa were given pasta rations. This forward thinking idea of using a ration that demands a lot of water in a place where water is a critical element is another example of the poor staff work and planning by the Italian high command. The Italian tanks were terrible from the stand point of reliability and performance. They had no real anti-tank capability and they were going to pay a very heavy price later in Africa for this oversight. In addition, the failure to deploy a good anti-tank weapon would also cost the Italians dearly.

The Italian airforce was one of the finest in Europe; if the war had started in 1936. By 1940, most of the Italian aircraft were obsolete and no match for either Hurricanes or Spitfires. Outdated tactics that worked in Spain didn't help either. The Italian aircraft industry was large and productive, but one critical element that hindered Italian aircraft development was failing to keep up in aero engine design. Simply, the Italians were not able to develop a good radial engine that produced the HP of the equivalent British/German versions. In fact, the failure to develop a high HP engine at all held Italian aviation back significantly. When the Italians were able to build the DB601 engine series on license, they produced extremely capable fighters, but it was a couple of years too late. The Italian practice of underarming their fighters (most went to war with 2 machine guns while the RAF had 8 gun fighters) didn't help matters either.

The Italian navy was designed to fight the French, not the British. Most of the Italian battleships at the start of the war were rebuilt ships from WW1 and while they could match what the French had from WW1, they were in no way any sort of match for the rebuilt British capital ships of WW1 and would have come off very poorly in a fight against them. The newer Italian battleships (Littorio) were a match for anything the British had, but the Italians only had 2 of them to start. Most of the Italian cruisers were lightly armored (much like their French counterparts) and were not very good designs. Most importantly, the Italian fleet suffered an inferiority complex when it came to facing the British. They knew the British were generally going to kick their butts in just about any engagement. Lack of oil also hindered the use of the Italian fleet as well.

A lot of the issues with Italy are the fact she was not a first rank power. Her equipment, training and doctrine were behind and compared very poorly to say the British. Compare the Italians to the French (not a first rank power either) and things are a lot closer in terms of equipment, doctrine, etc, despite the success the French had in holding the initial Italian attacks in 1940 although the French tanks were superior to what the Italians had to fight with. Italy was in a position that they could bully most lesser powers, but when it came to taking on a big kid on the block (England), the Italians were in serious trouble.

(in reply to Offworlder)
Post #: 20
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 7:32:12 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Klydon


quote:

ORIGINAL: Klydon

The Italian navy was designed to fight the French, not the British. Most of the Italian battleships at the start of the war were rebuilt ships from WW1 and while they could match what the French had from WW1, they were in no way any sort of match for the rebuilt British capital ships of WW1 and would have come off very poorly in a fight against them. The newer Italian battleships (Littorio) were a match for anything the British had, but the Italians only had 2 of them to start. Most of the Italian cruisers were lightly armored (much like their French counterparts) and were not very good designs. Most importantly, the Italian fleet suffered an inferiority complex when it came to facing the British. They knew the British were generally going to kick their butts in just about any engagement. Lack of oil also hindered the use of the Italian fleet as well.

warspite1

I disagree. Given the forces available, the RM should have done far, far better. The RN were split between Gib and Alex, while the Italians occupied the central Med and so should have been able (and indeed were able) to get superiority on many occasions. Cunningham was desperate for a fight but, Warspite aside, he struggled to get the R-class and un-modernised Queen Elizabeth's into a battle because of the latters appalling speed. Only two Littorios? Those two Littorios far out-classed the British ships - in terms of speed and firepower, the Royal Navy could not match them. The Zara-class heavy cruisers were very good ships. How many heavy cruisers did the RN have?

I agree on the inferiority complex point to an extent. Swap Cunningham for Campioni Iachino and we get a very different outcome to the naval war in the Med.

Lack of oil eventually became a problem as the Italians wasted precious supplies putting to sea with the whole fleet but failing to being the RN to decisive action.

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Post #: 21
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 9:42:34 PM   
Klydon


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I think you are missing my point.

The RM should have done far better against the Brits, but I think the RM was very afraid of the Royal Navy and to a lesser extent, had a good reason to be afraid. The older rebuilt battleships had 12.6 inch guns and thin armor. The only thing they had on the old British capital ships was speed. The Littorios were fine ships and on paper did out class anything the British had floating in the Med (It would have taken a KGV class or Nelson/Rodney perhaps to make it close to "even" on paper). The issue is crew training and the reluctance of the RM to risk the ships in battle.

As far as the Zara class goes, they are acknowledged as probably the best overall Italian heavy cruiser class and they were good ships that could have been made far more dangerous had they included torpedo tubes like most non US cruisers had. (Why those cruisers didn't include torpedo tubes in a restricted water space like the Med where combat is likely to be close is rather silly). While the British didn't have much in the Med in terms of 8 inch cruisers, there were several 6 inch cruisers there and they would have laid a hurting on any non-Zara class cruiser in the Italian inventory due to the lack of armor on Italian ships.

The British force out of Alexandria had 3 15 inch battleships for the longest time at least up until the end of 41 when the Barham got torpedoed and the other ships got sunk in Alexandria harbor. This was the force that pretty much kept the Italian fleet at bay (well, the Italians kept themselves at bay for the most part). The only reason the British were not able to force the action more was because of Axis airpower over the Central Med.

The point of all this is that the Italian navy, while superior in numbers to what the British had in the Med, was not about to engage in a fight with the Royal navy that they thought they might take heavy casualties. The Italian navy was not really that different from the French/Spanish fleet of Trafalgar. They outnumbered the British, but it was the British who pressed the attack with inferior numbers and winning battle after battle.

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 22
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/14/2013 11:47:12 PM   
turtlefang

 

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I will stick with my position that the Italians were a marginal plus for the Germans overall.

But I think this discussion has really highlighted the primary weakness of the Italian Navy, Air Force and Industry - a grave lack of leadership and foresight. While I understand the limitations of the Italian Navy (oil being a HUGE limitation), it really wasn't used very effectively.

Industry wise, the Italian industry czars simply did whatever they wanted to doThe Italian govt never managed to establish effective control over them. And this resulted in really lousy procument policies and equipment for the military and government projects in general. These top people exercised a tremendous amout of influence that they didn't have in other countries - such as Germany or the US.

And the Italian Air Force - while I agree was the not the best armed of the day - could have done much better in North Africa than it did. Reality is that the British didn't perform too well there for a long time for a number of reasons - the Germans chewed them up when they shouldn't have. When the Italians worked with the German Air Force, performance when up signifigantly. When it operated independently, it went down. And the biggest reason was leadership.

The Italian Army, while it could provide flank support, simply had too much going wrong for it. And I don't mean lack of courage but simply really bad equipment. Only the Japanese had worse equipment - and you can make an argument that on many things, the Italians had it worse.

But in the end, the campaign in the Med cost more Allied troops than German ones - something that didn't happen on any other front. And a good part of that reason is that the Germans were helped by the Italians - and after Italy surrendered, by a lot of Italian factories that keep producing weapons, ammo, food and transport. The German Army in Italy wasn't quiet self sufficient but it was very close once you excluded AFVs and men. A lot of the small arms, shells, transports, food and other supplies came out of Northern Italy.

(in reply to Klydon)
Post #: 23
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/15/2013 7:48:49 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Klydon

I think you are missing my point.

The RM should have done far better against the Brits, but I think the RM was very afraid of the Royal Navy and to a lesser extent, had a good reason to be afraid. The older rebuilt battleships had 12.6 inch guns and thin armor. The only thing they had on the old British capital ships was speed. The Littorios were fine ships and on paper did out class anything the British had floating in the Med (It would have taken a KGV class or Nelson/Rodney perhaps to make it close to "even" on paper). The issue is crew training and the reluctance of the RM to risk the ships in battle.

As far as the Zara class goes, they are acknowledged as probably the best overall Italian heavy cruiser class and they were good ships that could have been made far more dangerous had they included torpedo tubes like most non US cruisers had. (Why those cruisers didn't include torpedo tubes in a restricted water space like the Med where combat is likely to be close is rather silly). While the British didn't have much in the Med in terms of 8 inch cruisers, there were several 6 inch cruisers there and they would have laid a hurting on any non-Zara class cruiser in the Italian inventory due to the lack of armor on Italian ships.

The British force out of Alexandria had 3 15 inch battleships for the longest time at least up until the end of 41 when the Barham got torpedoed and the other ships got sunk in Alexandria harbor. This was the force that pretty much kept the Italian fleet at bay (well, the Italians kept themselves at bay for the most part). The only reason the British were not able to force the action more was because of Axis airpower over the Central Med.

The point of all this is that the Italian navy, while superior in numbers to what the British had in the Med, was not about to engage in a fight with the Royal navy that they thought they might take heavy casualties. The Italian navy was not really that different from the French/Spanish fleet of Trafalgar. They outnumbered the British, but it was the British who pressed the attack with inferior numbers and winning battle after battle.
warspite1

I am not missing the point. I agreed with you that the Italians had an inferiority complex vs the RN - they were fighting what they thought the RN was, not what it had become.

But when you say "the only thing they had...was speed" that is dismissing one of the key weapons in naval warfare. The ability to fight on your ground and at your choosing is something that speed gives you; a huge tactical advantage. The old Italian battleships were circa 7 knots faster than the R-class and 3-4 knots faster than the Queen Elizabeth's. The Zara's out-sped and out-ranged the British light cruisers.

Had the British had faster battleships they would have engaged the Italians in numbers at (off the top of my head) Spartivento and Calabria - both occasions where slower British ships could not get into the action.

There is no escaping - despite the claims of O'Hara - that the Italian performance was woeful.

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Post #: 24
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/15/2013 9:05:39 PM   
Dili

 

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I disagree. I think Italy was a big plus for Germans. it is just thinking what Allies could have done with resources - include oil, pieces etc the whol logistical tail sent to the Med. They were several times superior to what Germans sent.

quote:

The point of all this is that the Italian navy, while superior in numbers to what the British had in the Med, was not about to engage in a fight with the Royal navy that they thought they might take heavy casualties.


False. It enough to just check how many times Italians sent the battleships out seeking battle.

quote:

but it was the British who pressed the attack with inferior numbers and winning battle after battle


When that happened at day time?


quote:

there were several 6 inch cruisers there and they would have laid a hurting on any non-Zara class cruiser in the Italian inventory due to the lack of armor on Italian ships.


That is wrong Abruzzi/Garibaldi pair had armor equivalent to Zaras - and with decapping capability the overall quality probably superior with 30mm decaping + 100mm armor. The other 4 of Montecuccoli/Aosta Classes had armor equal to British light cruisers.
So we have 6 light cruisers with armor equivalent. There were also other 6 old and these with thin armor.

The issue is more doctrinal. Italians only used their good light cruisers for raiding in typical RN fashion in 1942. And the Garibaldi/Abruzzi pair if i am remembering right -have to check the TROMs- never went out of fleet duty


quote:

The Zara's out-sped and out-ranged the British light cruisers.


That is not correct, Zaras did not out speed most British light cruisers. Zaras had a 30-31kt in service speed.
Most be making confusion with Trento/Trieste.

quote:

Simply, the Italians were not able to develop a good radial engine that produced the HP of the equivalent British/German versions. In fact, the failure to develop a high HP engine at all held Italian aviation back significantly.


In fact the Italian engine industry situation was even worse. The nimble powered Italian radial engines were already license build engines.

quote:

Always very fashionable to belittle the performance of the Italian submarines.


Yes specially if we account for ton sunk, the only 2 submarines in first 50 that weren't German were Italian.

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 25
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/16/2013 4:42:16 PM   
cohimbra


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1
- Contribution of Italian subs to the Battle of the Atlantic? Negligible.


I've to disagree whit this point. I'm not an expert, but take a look to this
tables http://digilander.libero.it/planciacomando/WW2/som2.htm (tables are
written in italian, but I think they are easy to read, expecially the last one,
with the ship sunk and the tonnage sunk by italian submarine in Atlantico,
June 1940-September 1943; 109 ships, 593.864 tons). Regards.

< Message edited by cohimbra -- 2/16/2013 4:43:15 PM >

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 26
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/16/2013 5:32:28 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: cohimbra

quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1
- Contribution of Italian subs to the Battle of the Atlantic? Negligible.


I've to disagree whit this point. I'm not an expert, but take a look to this
tables http://digilander.libero.it/planciacomando/WW2/som2.htm (tables are
written in italian, but I think they are easy to read, expecially the last one,
with the ship sunk and the tonnage sunk by italian submarine in Atlantico,
June 1940-September 1943; 109 ships, 593.864 tons). Regards.
warspite1

I am no expert either, but I have read that in tonnage sunk per submarine employed, the Italians sank about 1/6th of that managed by their German ally.


_____________________________

England expects that every man will do his duty - Horatio Nelson 1805.




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Post #: 27
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/16/2013 7:24:30 PM   
Alfred

 

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As I said in my post, some of the German submarine designs were more efficient. But the structural reason for that outcome is that the Italian subs were ordered to patrol in far less intensive target environments. In part that being because the "superior" German subs were not suitable for operating so far from home. As the Allied ASW coverage increased and forced the Germans to operate in sub optimal killing grounds, their killing efficiency also dropped off.

In any case the relative efficiency of the respective sub designs is immaterial as to the central question posed in this thread. Provided a sub returned a net ROI (in operational terms not in historical capital cost), it contributed to the war effort.

Alfred

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 28
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/16/2013 8:18:57 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Alfred

As I said in my post, some of the German submarine designs were more efficient. But the structural reason for that outcome is that the Italian subs were ordered to patrol in far less intensive target environments. In part that being because the "superior" German subs were not suitable for operating so far from home. As the Allied ASW coverage increased and forced the Germans to operate in sub optimal killing grounds, their killing efficiency also dropped off.

In any case the relative efficiency of the respective sub designs is immaterial as to the central question posed in this thread. Provided a sub returned a net ROI (in operational terms not in historical capital cost), it contributed to the war effort.

Alfred
warspite1

Yes, the reason for the poor performance is irrelevant in the context of this thread. The question is not would the Italians have been a plus or a minus IF this or that happened or their forces were better employed, or they had better equipment.

But re your point about ROI, this too, in isolation, is irrelevant. Was the Italian contribution a plus or minus to the German cause? The answer needs to take into account all factors and even then it comes down to opinion.

O'Hara thinks the RM performance was much better than people generally think; I say that is not so. Who is right? Well there is no right or wrong answer. If the war could be re-run and we find the Italians can break the RN in the Med with a more aggressive strategy, then O'Hara is wrong. If, by using such a strategy, the RM are quickly sent to the bottom of the Med, then O'Hara has a point.

But we don't know so it comes down to opinion.

< Message edited by warspite1 -- 2/16/2013 8:41:11 PM >


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Post #: 29
RE: What if Italy Chose Neutrality? - 2/16/2013 11:09:09 PM   
turtlefang

 

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warspite1 is absolutely correct. This is an opinion based on what people feel/know. There can be no right or wrong answer. I think people can highlight critical issues and make insightful comments on what happened or could have happened if things were done differently, but the reality is we won't know.

A lot of good information has been shared, but in the end, it comes down to how you feel about what happened.

And the interesting thing is that the general opinion seems to be that it run from general marginal minus to a marginal plus. Italy didn't seem to influence Germany greatly one way or the other - despite the loss of life due to its involvement in the war.

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 30
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