Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

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Cantankerous
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Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Cantankerous » 22 May 2020 02:15

The story of Hitler's battles with the Allies in North Africa is well known, but most people don't know that Benito Mussolini agreed with the Roman emperors that the Mediterranean Sea was the domain of the Italian nation. Indeed, Italy already had created a colony in Libya after wrestling control of that country from the Ottoman Turks in the 1911-1912 Italo-Ottoman Wars, and the fall of France may have created an opportunity for Mussolini to keep pressing ahead with his plans for a modern-day Roman Empire by conquering French colonies in North Africa.

If Benito Mussolini had conquered North Africa:
Points 1&2 have been removed because they're irrelevant and TBH rather superfluous in a military historically sense. Andy H

3. Mussolini would have built naval bases along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa so that the Regia Marina would have sunk any Royal Navy vessels bound for attacks on Italy or Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.

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hucks216
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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by hucks216 » 22 May 2020 10:26

You seem to have forgotten Operation Compass.

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Sheldrake
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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Sheldrake » 22 May 2020 11:40

... and that the Mussolini was in charge of a country that lacked the economic and military strength to take on Greece without German help ;)

The military history of the Italian state is not winning through strength but by ending wars on the winning side. Italy became unified after Sardinia allied with France in 1854 and 1859 and Prussia in 1866, despite losing battles quite spectacularly in 1859 and 1866. Italy grew further, after ending WW as an Entente power, although it was originally a member of the Triple alliance and losing lots of men on the Isonzo, and spectacularly at Caporetto. There was a logic to the Facist worship of sacrifice. Dead Italians allowed Italy to gain territory.

The other obstacle to Mussolini taking over North Africa is that it remained French under the 1940 armistice between Hitler and the Vichy French. It might have become Spanish if Hitler really wanted to get Franco into the war.

An Italian invasion of Tunisia probably ended much the same way as the Italian invasion of Egypt. Most likely result is to fast forward the events of Nov 1942.

Facist Italy was not supply competent or fair imperial administration. It is very doubtful whether Italian Fascism would have had any more appeal to the Moslems of North Africa than it had to the Christians of Ethiopia.

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by History Learner » 26 May 2020 04:07

Fallen Eagles: The Italian 10th Army in the Opening Campaign in the Western Desert, June 1940-December 1940:

The Italian Army developed a new and revolutionary doctrine of combined arms warfare in 1938 based on the lessons learned from their experiences of the 1930s. The success from the use of Italian combined arm teams in Spain and in Ethiopia proved the concept of motorized forces and the natural follow-on of mechanization for the Italian Army. This doctrine was called the War of Rapid Decision. With this doctrine the Italian Army had developed a new and dynamic operational art of war. The Italian military in Libya had all the necessary elements to be successful utilizing this new doctrine. In addition it had a commander that already successfully used and demonstrated an applied motorized doctrine in the Italo-Ethiopian war where it proved victorious to him. Marshal Graziani didn’t utilize this new doctrine. The operational plan Marshal Graziani and his staff did execute was an advance in mass for the invasion of Egypt.​

The operational plan Marshall Graziani and his staff should have developed was for a two-phase invasion, utilizing Italian mechanized doctrine, based on the forces available to him. This plan would have called for the stripping of all the trucks from the Italian 5th Army and using the just-arriving Italian M.11 medium tanks as the main mechanized striking force. The Italian army should have formed a mechanized force to invade Egypt, only followed by garrison troops to maintain the lines of communication. Based on the amount of transport available in Libya, his staff estimated they could have fully motorized two divisions and a brigade of Libyan troops (Knox 1982, 156). Combined with the available armor and motorized artillery forces, he would have had a potential mechanized force to invade Egypt with in August of 1940. The only realistic motorized formation that could have been formed is with the Comando Carri Armati della Libia, possibly three or four artillery Regiments, and one motorized infantry division.​

The first phase of the operation would have been the Italian Army occupying the city of Sollum. This first phase would see them crossing the wire and occupying Sollum with the available infantry and artillery formations. This force would stay and garrison the city, protect the line of communication, and act as a reserve. This phase of the operation would see the Metropolitan Italian nonmotorized divisions advance along the coast and attack through Halfaya Pass and occupy Sollum. This would have allowed the Italian army to control this strategic terrain and use it has the starting point for the second phase of the operation.​

The second phase of the plan would see two primary forces advancing on two separate axes of advance to Mersa Martuh. Two separate forces attacking on two separate axes of advance would make this attack. The slow moving foot infantry could advance along the coastal road. This would allow the Italian binary nonmotorized infantry divisions to utilize the only road network available to them and have some use in the campaign. The Metropolitan Italian nonmotorized divisions would advance along the coast and continue forward to an intermediate objective of Sidi Barrani and then on to the final objective Mersa Martuh. The southern column consisting of the Libyan Divisions and the armored Comando Carri Armati della Libia would advance on the Dayr al-Hamra–Bir ar Rabiyah–Bir Enba track to flank the escarpment, and the enemy, with the ultimate objective of Mersa Martuh. In this manner, the Italian army could have met the British at Mersa Martuh utilizing the non motorized Italian formations in a suitable role, and the motorized formations to flank their defense and cut the British line of communications defeating, them at Mersa Martuh.​

This plan would have been an example of Italian mechanized doctrine utilizing the available forces. The combination of the advance of forces moving along the coast, pinning the enemy, and the Italian mechanized forces operating to turn the enemy’s flank followed Italian mechanized doctrine. This plan would have the Italian mechanized elements making long flanking movements through the desert. Such employment would have been ideally suited for the mechanized forces, according to Italian doctrine. Only under this concept and applying their mechanized doctrine would Italian forces have had a reasonable chance for success against the British. Since Marshal Graziani failed to apply Italian doctrine he was defeated in detail by a significantly smaller British force in the western desert.​

Had the Italian Army and Marshal Graziani struck early in the desert campaign and in strength utilizing their new doctrine it is doubtful that the British could have stopped them short of the Nile river. Instead of pursing that goal the Marshal Graziani asked for more resources to accomplish that mission instead of acting. When Marshal Graziani was forced into action, the Italian Army in North Africa didn’t adopt a plan of an attack in depth but reverted to a plan utilizing an attack in mass. This failing caused the Italian army to be defeated during its invasion of Egypt. One can only speculate on the reasons for Graziani’s failure to employ the rapid decision doctrine. Surely one key factor was the Italian Army’s deficiency in the areas of the army leadership, training level of the different organizations, leadership of the organizations, unit cohesion, logistics, and armored vehicles. A combination of these factors made the Italian Army less effective then it could have been in the campaign.​

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Ironmachine » 26 May 2020 07:10

Cantankerous wrote:but most people don't know that Benito Mussolini agreed with the Roman emperors that the Mediterranean Sea was the domain of the Italian nation.

The Roman emperors had no idea of what an "Italian nation" was. They were Romans, not Italians. And considering that many of them were not even born in "Italy", I don't think they would agree with Benito. :lol:
Cantankerous wrote:Berber women in Morocco would have adopted secular dress codes and worn lipstick and nail polish, and women in Algeria and Tunisia would have abandoned their Islamic dress customs and worn Western-style dress.
Yes, because that's exactly what women in Libya and AOI did after their lands where conquered by Italy. :lol:

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Sheldrake » 26 May 2020 09:39

History Learner wrote:
26 May 2020 04:07
Fallen Eagles: The Italian 10th Army in the Opening Campaign in the Western Desert, June 1940-December 1940:

The Italian Army developed a new and revolutionary doctrine of combined arms warfare in 1938 based on the lessons learned from their experiences of the 1930s. The success from the use of Italian combined arm teams in Spain and in Ethiopia proved the concept of motorized forces and the natural follow-on of mechanization for the Italian Army. This doctrine was called the War of Rapid Decision. With this doctrine the Italian Army had developed a new and dynamic operational art of war. The Italian military in Libya had all the necessary elements to be successful utilizing this new doctrine. In addition it had a commander that already successfully used and demonstrated an applied motorized doctrine in the Italo-Ethiopian war where it proved victorious to him. Marshal Graziani didn’t utilize this new doctrine. ............................. Surely one key factor was the Italian Army’s deficiency in the areas of the army leadership, training level of the different organizations, leadership of the organizations, unit cohesion, logistics, and armored vehicles. A combination of these factors made the Italian Army less effective then it could have been in the campaign.​
It isn't enough to have a bright idea. You need the technology, procedures and training to implement it. The Italian army lacked all three.

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by History Learner » 26 May 2020 10:22

Sheldrake wrote:
26 May 2020 09:39
History Learner wrote:
26 May 2020 04:07
Fallen Eagles: The Italian 10th Army in the Opening Campaign in the Western Desert, June 1940-December 1940:

The Italian Army developed a new and revolutionary doctrine of combined arms warfare in 1938 based on the lessons learned from their experiences of the 1930s. The success from the use of Italian combined arm teams in Spain and in Ethiopia proved the concept of motorized forces and the natural follow-on of mechanization for the Italian Army. This doctrine was called the War of Rapid Decision. With this doctrine the Italian Army had developed a new and dynamic operational art of war. The Italian military in Libya had all the necessary elements to be successful utilizing this new doctrine. In addition it had a commander that already successfully used and demonstrated an applied motorized doctrine in the Italo-Ethiopian war where it proved victorious to him. Marshal Graziani didn’t utilize this new doctrine. ............................. Surely one key factor was the Italian Army’s deficiency in the areas of the army leadership, training level of the different organizations, leadership of the organizations, unit cohesion, logistics, and armored vehicles. A combination of these factors made the Italian Army less effective then it could have been in the campaign.​
It isn't enough to have a bright idea. You need the technology, procedures and training to implement it. The Italian army lacked all three.
Which they had, as the citation shows. It was just a lack of the commanding general giving it all the organization:

"The operational plan Marshall Graziani and his staff should have developed was for a two-phase invasion, utilizing Italian mechanized doctrine, based on the forces available to him. This plan would have called for the stripping of all the trucks from the Italian 5th Army and using the just-arriving Italian M.11 medium tanks as the main mechanized striking force. The Italian army should have formed a mechanized force to invade Egypt, only followed by garrison troops to maintain the lines of communication. Based on the amount of transport available in Libya, his staff estimated they could have fully motorized two divisions and a brigade of Libyan troops (Knox 1982, 156). Combined with the available armor and motorized artillery forces, he would have had a potential mechanized force to invade Egypt with in August of 1940. The only realistic motorized formation that could have been formed is with the Comando Carri Armati della Libia, possibly three or four artillery Regiments, and one motorized infantry division.​"

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Sheldrake
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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Sheldrake » 26 May 2020 14:25

History Learner wrote:
26 May 2020 10:22
Sheldrake wrote:
26 May 2020 09:39
History Learner wrote:
26 May 2020 04:07
Fallen Eagles: The Italian 10th Army in the Opening Campaign in the Western Desert, June 1940-December 1940:

The Italian Army developed a new and revolutionary doctrine of combined arms warfare in 1938 based on the lessons learned from their experiences of the 1930s. The success from the use of Italian combined arm teams in Spain and in Ethiopia proved the concept of motorized forces and the natural follow-on of mechanization for the Italian Army. This doctrine was called the War of Rapid Decision. With this doctrine the Italian Army had developed a new and dynamic operational art of war. The Italian military in Libya had all the necessary elements to be successful utilizing this new doctrine. In addition it had a commander that already successfully used and demonstrated an applied motorized doctrine in the Italo-Ethiopian war where it proved victorious to him. Marshal Graziani didn’t utilize this new doctrine. ............................. Surely one key factor was the Italian Army’s deficiency in the areas of the army leadership, training level of the different organizations, leadership of the organizations, unit cohesion, logistics, and armored vehicles. A combination of these factors made the Italian Army less effective then it could have been in the campaign.​
It isn't enough to have a bright idea. You need the technology, procedures and training to implement it. The Italian army lacked all three.
Which they had, as the citation shows. It was just a lack of the commanding general giving it all the organization:

"The operational plan Marshall Graziani and his staff should have developed was for a two-phase invasion, utilizing Italian mechanized doctrine, based on the forces available to him. This plan would have called for the stripping of all the trucks from the Italian 5th Army and using the just-arriving Italian M.11 medium tanks as the main mechanized striking force. The Italian army should have formed a mechanized force to invade Egypt, only followed by garrison troops to maintain the lines of communication. Based on the amount of transport available in Libya, his staff estimated they could have fully motorized two divisions and a brigade of Libyan troops (Knox 1982, 156). Combined with the available armor and motorized artillery forces, he would have had a potential mechanized force to invade Egypt with in August of 1940. The only realistic motorized formation that could have been formed is with the Comando Carri Armati della Libia, possibly three or four artillery Regiments, and one motorized infantry division.​"

You cannot strip transport from non mechanised forces in the desert and expect them to do anything but starve. The only means of supply is MT. Horses and mules need water. The MT that might have helped Graziani was in the Po for an invasion of Yugoslavia that never happened.

The state of training for NCOs and Junior officers was abysmal. A general with a cunning plan needed competent subordinates. In summer 1940 a large swathe of soldiers were demobilised. The M11 lacked radios and its armour was thin enough to be penetrated by any anti tank gun. The first armoured division did not arrive until April 1941 Under equipped and under trained they would be mince in front of 7th Armoured Division.

Try Brian Sullivan's essay in "Time to Kill" Addision and Calder.

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Andy H » 26 May 2020 18:17

Cantankerous wrote:
22 May 2020 02:15
The story of Hitler's battles with the Allies in North Africa is well known, but most people don't know that Benito Mussolini agreed with the Roman emperors that the Mediterranean Sea was the domain of the Italian nation. Indeed, Italy already had created a colony in Libya after wrestling control of that country from the Ottoman Turks in the 1911-1912 Italo-Ottoman Wars, and the fall of France may have created an opportunity for Mussolini to keep pressing ahead with his plans for a modern-day Roman Empire by conquering French colonies in North Africa.

If Benito Mussolini had conquered North Africa:
Points 1&2 have been removed because they're irrelevant and TBH rather superfluous in a military historically sense. Andy H

3. Mussolini would have built naval bases along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa so that the Regia Marina would have sunk any Royal Navy vessels bound for attacks on Italy or Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.
Hi

Though you've made a proposal you've backed it up without any detail that can be discussed other than 'I wish it so'.

Whilst Mussolini would have wished to take the French NA colonies, the impact on relations with Germany and the Vichy Govt wouldn't have happened in a vacuum. Then, if Italy's French NA excursion resulted in success, your statement that the RM would have sunk any RN vessel venturing East, is again not backed up without any evidence of how & why!

Regards

Andy H

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Cantankerous » 26 May 2020 20:53

Andy H wrote:
26 May 2020 18:17
Cantankerous wrote:
22 May 2020 02:15
The story of Hitler's battles with the Allies in North Africa is well known, but most people don't know that Benito Mussolini agreed with the Roman emperors that the Mediterranean Sea was the domain of the Italian nation. Indeed, Italy already had created a colony in Libya after wrestling control of that country from the Ottoman Turks in the 1911-1912 Italo-Ottoman Wars, and the fall of France may have created an opportunity for Mussolini to keep pressing ahead with his plans for a modern-day Roman Empire by conquering French colonies in North Africa.

If Benito Mussolini had conquered North Africa:
Points 1&2 have been removed because they're irrelevant and TBH rather superfluous in a military historically sense. Andy H

3. Mussolini would have built naval bases along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa so that the Regia Marina would have sunk any Royal Navy vessels bound for attacks on Italy or Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia.
Hi

Though you've made a proposal you've backed it up without any detail that can be discussed other than 'I wish it so'.

Whilst Mussolini would have wished to take the French NA colonies, the impact on relations with Germany and the Vichy Govt wouldn't have happened in a vacuum. Then, if Italy's French NA excursion resulted in success, your statement that the RM would have sunk any RN vessel venturing East, is again not backed up without any evidence of how & why!

Regards

Andy H
I wanted to emphasize that if Mussolini had succeeded in conquering all of the North Africa and then built Regia Marina bases along the North African coast, then any Royal Navy vessels that were being dispatched to the Mediterranean via the Gibraltar Strait to open fire on RM outposts in North Africa in hopes of liberating French colonies in N. Africa from Italian control would have been mauled by RM battleships.

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Ironmachine » 27 May 2020 06:59

History Learner wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:It isn't enough to have a bright idea. You need the technology, procedures and training to implement it. The Italian army lacked all three.
Which they had, as the citation shows. It was just a lack of the commanding general giving it all the organization:
The citation doesn't show that. It remarks "the Italian Army’s deficiency in the areas of the army leadership, training level of the different organizations, leadership of the organizations, unit cohesion, logistics, and armored vehicles." Those are some serious problems that are not going to be solved simply by putting another general in charge.
Anyway, any source that states:
The success from the use of Italian combined arm teams in Spain and in Ethiopia proved the concept of motorized forces and the natural follow-on of mechanization for the Italian Army.
should be taken with a grain of salt, at least.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Ironmachine » 27 May 2020 07:09

Cantankerous wrote:I wanted to emphasize that if Mussolini had succeeded in conquering all of the North Africa and then built Regia Marina bases along the North African coast,
And if Mussolini had wings, he could have flown and bomb London himself! :lol:
As they say, the devil is in the details. To begin with, how is he going to conquer all of North Africa?
Cantankerous wrote: then any Royal Navy vessels that were being dispatched to the Mediterranean via the Gibraltar Strait to open fire on RM outposts in North Africa in hopes of liberating French colonies in N. Africa from Italian control would have been mauled by RM battleships.
And again you are not backing up your statement with any evidence of how & why! Given the rather poor record of the Italian surface units against the British in OTL, you should come up with some serious support for this claim.

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Re: Mussolini beats Hitler in the race to conquer North Africa

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 May 2020 08:12

This is a realistic prospect.

1) The Italians had a large army in North Africa. The British had a small army in Egypt.

2) The French also had a large army in North Africa, but most of it was committed to metropolitan France. After the fall of France, the remainder were vulnerable.

3) After the fall of France half the Allied naval force in the Mediterranean fell out of their order of battle. The big weakness was the slow development of seaborne radar.

4) The Italian air force, while greatly over hyped, was still capable of dealing with the lower grade RAF unis in the area.

It all depended how the Italians took advantage of their opportunity.

Their biggest weakness was the distribution of transport in North Africa. Most of their mobile divisions were only designed to be autotransportable. That is they could be.movd by motorbtransport but did not have organic transport of their own. Had they concentrated on fully motorising a smaller number of divisions, they would still have significantly outnumbered the British in Egypt.

Malta was at first very vulnerable. However, Italy initially had no dedicated amphibious force to taken advantage of this.

So, (1) better distribution of army mechanized assets, (2) a dedicated amphibious force and (3) shipborne radar.

Sid.

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