The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

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The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 04:11

German industry was dependent on three metals that were on the extreme edge of its ability to project military power:
  • Iron (from Sweden)
  • Tungsten (from Portugal and Spain)
  • Chromium (from Turkey)
In the OTL, the Allies made a concerted diplomatic and economic effort to persuade these countries not to sell to Germany, and paid exorbitant amounts to buy up as much of these metals as possible, but enough still got through to keep the German war machine running into 1945.

What if the Allies used military means to cut off Germany from these sources?

Sweden

The British and French planned to deprive Germany of iron ore from Sweden by sending an army to help Finland against the Red Army, but Sweden never gave permission for them to pass through before the Finns and Soviets agreed to a peace. Nevertheless, the British, French and Norwegian forces succeeded in capturing Narvik in 1940, cutting off one of the two ports used to ship Swedish iron ore to Germany (the other one being Luleå in Sweden, which was frozen off during the winter). In the OTL, the Allies withdrew from Narvik in June due to the collapse in France. What if they chose to stay and hold Narvik?

There was no overland connection between Narvik and the part of Norway under German control. The German fleet had been severely mauled, and the Allies controlled all the ports in Norway. And Narvik was out of range of the Luftwaffe. The British could have stayed, along with Norway's king, who in the OTL ordered the victorious Norwegian troops in Narvik to surrender. And there would have been nothing Germany could do about it.

Turkey

In the OTL, Britain reached a deal with Turkey to buy up 100% of its chromium in 1939 through the end of 1942. Germany and Turkey signed a deal in October 1941 to resume Turkish shipments of chromium to Germany starting in 1943. The Allies put diplomatic pressure on Turkey that finally succeeded in 1944 in getting Turkey to stop selling chromium to Germany. Germany had bought large stocks of chromium from Turkey in the 1930s and supplemented it with chromium from the Balkans and Soviet deliveries prior to Barbarossa, and this allowed German industry to stay afloat through 1942, but the situation was becoming critical by 1943. Albert Speer wrote:
Hence the element in shortest supply is chromium. This is especially grave since chromium is indispensable to a highly developed armaments industry. Should supplies from Turkey be cut off, the stockpile of chromium is sufficient only for 5.6 months. The manufacture of planes, tanks, motor vehicles, tank shells, U-boats, and almost the entire gamut of artillery would have to cease from one to three months after this deadline, since by then the reserves in the distributions channels would be used up.
https://1997-2001.state.gov/www/regions ... turkey.pdf

Spain/Portugal

Germany required 3,500 tons of iron ore per year, most of which came from German owned mines in Spain and Portugal, as discussed here: viewtopic.php?f=66&t=2569

Timing for invasions

The main question is, when could the Allies have invaded Sweden, Portugal and Turkey to deprive Germany of these metals? The most likely time would be summer 1943, after the liberation of North Africa was complete and the Allies had relatively free transit through the Mediterranean. Instead of invading Sicily, which served little strategic purpose, the Allies could have landed troops in Turkey and Spain, and also crossed over the border from Norway and occupied the Kiruna iron mines in Sweden. The Allies might have been able to move earlier, but they could definitely do so by July 1943.

What would be the effect? The simultaneous elimination of most of Germany's supply of high quality iron ore, chromium and tungsten would have devastated German industry. Germany could ration its existing stocks and find smaller amounts from other sources (mainly the Balkans), but Germany would also be losing its manganese and iron mines in the Ukraine by early 1944. And there would be nothing Germany could do to stop the Allies. Germany could not reach northern Sweden. The infrastructure in France and Spain was too weak to support a large German ground army. And the same could be said for Turkey. The Allies don't even need to stay and fight to occupy these countries. They can send their forces in, destroy the mines and mining equipment with enough TNT to make it impossible to excavate them for years, and then leave. And German industry would have ground to a halt, and the war would have ended a year earlier. Millions of lives would be spared compared with the OTL.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 09 Mar 2021 06:57

HistoryGeek2021 wrote:What if the Allies used military means to cut off Germany from these sources?
I think the Allies win. Of course they probably also win if they invade the moon to cut off Germany from moonlit reveries so it's a question of whether this is a good path to victory.
The main question is, when could the Allies have invaded Sweden, Portugal and Turkey
Allies could have landed troops in Turkey and Spain
Another question - probably the main one - is what do Spaniards, Swedes, Portuguese, and Turks do about this?
The infrastructure in France and Spain was too weak to support a large German ground army. And the same could be said for Turkey.
Anything can be said; much better to actually say it. Even better to say something with the support of data and analysis.

Odd how French infrastructure is too weak for large armies in '43. Did somebody remove, then replace, everything that supported massive armies in '40 and '44?
What would be the effect?
German industry would have ground to a halt, and the war would have ended a year earlier.
As I've referenced earlier, you "raise questions" then leap to the conclusion charted long before.

Things you skipped:
  • Is this better than OTL?
  • Where does the shipping come from? See, e.g., American objections to Churchillian Mediterranean forays on account of shipping (inter alia). https://history.army.mil/html/books/001 ... ub_1-6.pdf
  • The little matters of Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Swedish people/soldiers.
  • German stocks and substitutes.
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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Peter89 » 09 Mar 2021 10:29

I told you before in another thread ( viewtopic.php?f=66&t=256053 ):

1.) Germany's chrome overwhelmingly came from the Balkans during the war. If there wasn't a Barbarossa, trade with Asia was also possible.

2.) Germany's wolfram came from China; if there wasn't a Barbarossa, there was no dire need for Iberian wolfram.

3.) Swedish iron ore was important, but not crucial. Narvik was not needed for the ore shipments.

Also, the famous quote from Speer was taken out of context.

In 1940, Germany had 23.5kt chrome and consumed 31.3kt; in 1941, stocks were at 6.2kt and consumption fell to 25.6kt; in 1942, stocks were at 17.3kt and consumption at 21.7kt. During 1940-1942, the Turks supplied 0.6kt of chrome to Germany, which almost depleted its stocks in 1941, when they had about 3 months of stocks...

In 1943, stocks were at 14.3kt and consumption at 35.8kt; in 1944, there were 31.3kt in stocks and 37.4kt in consumption. during these two years, the Turks delivered 16.6kt, about half the stocks the Germans had.

Preemptive buying programs were largely ineffective, the general situation in war was decisive; the Spaniards favored the stronger anticipated side and the Turks favored the weaker - both in line with their geostrategical positions.

Also: Allied invasions via the Iberian peninsula, the Scandinavian peninsula or the Balkan peninsula was on the table just as much as German contingency plans to meet these invasions. (Operation Isabella / Ilona, etc)
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Lars » 09 Mar 2021 13:33

It is much smarter and cheaper to out-bit the Germans in Portugal, Spain and Turkey, if necessary bid 2 or 3 times what Germany paid. This happened in the real war, but it could have been done earlier and with more lavish out-bidding.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 17:07

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
09 Mar 2021 06:57
HistoryGeek2021 wrote:What if the Allies used military means to cut off Germany from these sources?
I think the Allies win. Of course they probably also win if they invade the moon to cut off Germany from moonlit reveries so it's a question of whether this is a good path to victory.
The main question is, when could the Allies have invaded Sweden, Portugal and Turkey
Allies could have landed troops in Turkey and Spain
Another question - probably the main one - is what do Spaniards, Swedes, Portuguese, and Turks do about this?
The infrastructure in France and Spain was too weak to support a large German ground army. And the same could be said for Turkey.
Anything can be said; much better to actually say it. Even better to say something with the support of data and analysis.

Odd how French infrastructure is too weak for large armies in '43. Did somebody remove, then replace, everything that supported massive armies in '40 and '44?
What would be the effect?
German industry would have ground to a halt, and the war would have ended a year earlier.
As I've referenced earlier, you "raise questions" then leap to the conclusion charted long before.

Things you skipped:
  • Is this better than OTL?
  • Where does the shipping come from? See, e.g., American objections to Churchillian Mediterranean forays on account of shipping (inter alia). https://history.army.mil/html/books/001 ... ub_1-6.pdf
  • The little matters of Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Swedish people/soldiers.
  • German stocks and substitutes.
Since you speak in an insulting and condescending manner, I will ignore you.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 17:11

Peter89 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 10:29
I told you before in another thread ( viewtopic.php?f=66&t=256053 ):

1.) Germany's chrome overwhelmingly came from the Balkans during the war. If there wasn't a Barbarossa, trade with Asia was also possible.

2.) Germany's wolfram came from China; if there wasn't a Barbarossa, there was no dire need for Iberian wolfram.

3.) Swedish iron ore was important, but not crucial. Narvik was not needed for the ore shipments.

Also, the famous quote from Speer was taken out of context.

In 1940, Germany had 23.5kt chrome and consumed 31.3kt; in 1941, stocks were at 6.2kt and consumption fell to 25.6kt; in 1942, stocks were at 17.3kt and consumption at 21.7kt. During 1940-1942, the Turks supplied 0.6kt of chrome to Germany, which almost depleted its stocks in 1941, when they had about 3 months of stocks...

In 1943, stocks were at 14.3kt and consumption at 35.8kt; in 1944, there were 31.3kt in stocks and 37.4kt in consumption. during these two years, the Turks delivered 16.6kt, about half the stocks the Germans had.

Preemptive buying programs were largely ineffective, the general situation in war was decisive; the Spaniards favored the stronger anticipated side and the Turks favored the weaker - both in line with their geostrategical positions.

Also: Allied invasions via the Iberian peninsula, the Scandinavian peninsula or the Balkan peninsula was on the table just as much as German contingency plans to meet these invasions. (Operation Isabella / Ilona, etc)
There was a Barbarossa. Trade with Asia was not possible for Germany in the OTL. Germany wasn't getting any wolfram from China in the OTL. If you want to start an ATL where Germany doesn't conduct operation Barbarossa and continues to trade with China, go ahead, but that has nothing to do with this ATL. The point of departure in this ATL is that the Allies invade Sweden, Spain and Turkey to cut off Germany supplies of iron, tungsten and chromium from those countries. If you want to create an ATL with other points of departure, start your own thread.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 17:12

Lars wrote:
09 Mar 2021 13:33
It is much smarter and cheaper to out-bit the Germans in Portugal, Spain and Turkey, if necessary bid 2 or 3 times what Germany paid. This happened in the real war, but it could have been done earlier and with more lavish out-bidding.
The Allies tried this in the OTL, but Portugal, Spain and Turkey continued to sell to Germany. A military invasion (or the threat of invasion) was necessary to stop the flow completely.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 09 Mar 2021 18:16

Lars wrote:
09 Mar 2021 13:33
It is much smarter and cheaper to out-bit the Germans in Portugal, Spain and Turkey, if necessary bid 2 or 3 times what Germany paid. This happened in the real war, but it could have been done earlier and with more lavish out-bidding.
The Allied preemptive buying program had an effect then unforeseen but easily foreseeable: an increase in price caused an increase in quantity supplied. The Allies diverted much of the production to themselves, sure, but they also funded capital/labor expansions in the mining industries that sustained German supply to some extent.
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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Peter89 » 09 Mar 2021 18:16

historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 17:11
Peter89 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 10:29
I told you before in another thread ( viewtopic.php?f=66&t=256053 ):

1.) Germany's chrome overwhelmingly came from the Balkans during the war. If there wasn't a Barbarossa, trade with Asia was also possible.

2.) Germany's wolfram came from China; if there wasn't a Barbarossa, there was no dire need for Iberian wolfram.

3.) Swedish iron ore was important, but not crucial. Narvik was not needed for the ore shipments.

Also, the famous quote from Speer was taken out of context.

In 1940, Germany had 23.5kt chrome and consumed 31.3kt; in 1941, stocks were at 6.2kt and consumption fell to 25.6kt; in 1942, stocks were at 17.3kt and consumption at 21.7kt. During 1940-1942, the Turks supplied 0.6kt of chrome to Germany, which almost depleted its stocks in 1941, when they had about 3 months of stocks...

In 1943, stocks were at 14.3kt and consumption at 35.8kt; in 1944, there were 31.3kt in stocks and 37.4kt in consumption. during these two years, the Turks delivered 16.6kt, about half the stocks the Germans had.

Preemptive buying programs were largely ineffective, the general situation in war was decisive; the Spaniards favored the stronger anticipated side and the Turks favored the weaker - both in line with their geostrategical positions.

Also: Allied invasions via the Iberian peninsula, the Scandinavian peninsula or the Balkan peninsula was on the table just as much as German contingency plans to meet these invasions. (Operation Isabella / Ilona, etc)
There was a Barbarossa. Trade with Asia was not possible for Germany in the OTL. Germany wasn't getting any wolfram from China in the OTL. If you want to start an ATL where Germany doesn't conduct operation Barbarossa and continues to trade with China, go ahead, but that has nothing to do with this ATL. The point of departure in this ATL is that the Allies invade Sweden, Spain and Turkey to cut off Germany supplies of iron, tungsten and chromium from those countries. If you want to create an ATL with other points of departure, start your own thread.
Regardless of Barbarossa; Germany's chrome did not depend on Turkey but on the Balkans.

Regardless of Barbarossa; Germany's iron ore supply did not depend on the Swedish import.

Regardless of Barbarossa; Iberian wolfram was not a decisive factor in Germany's war effort, Germany never ran out of wolfram and no critical shortage was experienced.

It does not mean that these imports were insignificant, only that they were not decisive.

What gives this ATL some credibility is that the Allies thought / estimated that Germany will use waaay more of these resources (eg. they estimated 3500t/y wolfram consumption and actually, the Germans were able to lower their consumption from 2040t/y to 1200t/y) from 1943.

Now I'm going to bed because tomorrow I'm gonna cross the continent by car and relocate to Spain, so sorry if I answer a few days later.
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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 20:24

Germany's supply of high quality chrome was dependent on Turkey:
Reichs-Wirtschaftsministeriumreported in October 1942 that the German chrome demand was 3120 tons/month and the delivery of chrome from the Balkans was 3200 tons/month and Germany has stocks enough for 7-8 months. Therefore it was instructed not to import any chrome from Turkey instead it should be inspected whether or not attention should be canalized to some other places to guarantee their delivery such as wolfram from Spain and Portugal. After this report a meeting took place between the director and the manager of the ferroalloys department. Manager argued that it was necessary to delivery high quality chrome ore from Turkey which was the scarcest of all and found in Turkey. On the other hand director claimed that this kind of chrome could be acquired from Albania. At the end it was decided that Turkish high grade chrome should be attained at any cost.
Pages 106-107, https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... rome_Sales

Germany's supply of high grade iron ore was dependent on Sweden. Sweden accounted for at least 23% of Germany's iron consumption in each year of the war through 1944.
Referring to quantities alone, however, does not suffice to arrive at an understanding of the importance of the material to the German war economy. Particular emphasis needs to be put on the quality of Swedish iron ore by comparison with domestically mined ore and ore mined from German Lorraine (Minette-Erz). While the latter contained an average of only about 30 percent iron, Swedish ore boasted about 60 per cent iron content. Using Swedish iron ore enabled German steel producers to save on labour, blast furnace capacity and coke. German officials estimated that coal and coke savings alone amounted to about 2 million mt a year. Savings in terms of labour were therefore not limited to the steel industry, they also affected the number of workers needed in the mining of coal and domestic iron ore. The importance of Swedish iron ore in terms of its quality further extended to the low phosphorous content of a substantial proportion of the supplies exported to Germany. These supplies increased during the war and were deemed or crucial importance (nicht ersetsbar) to the production of high-grade steel.
Pages 71-72, https://books.google.com/books/about/Na ... 7g760AE9cC
Peter89 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 18:16
Regardless of Barbarossa; Iberian wolfram was not a decisive factor in Germany's war effort, Germany never ran out of wolfram and no critical shortage was experienced.
No critical shortage was experienced because Germany imported wolfram from Iberia. In this ATL, the Allies invade Iberia no later than July 1943. Combined with the deprivation of Swedish iron ore and Turkish chromium, German industry would have ground to a halt within a year, and millions of lives would have been saved compared to the OTL.

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... and_Iberia

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Mar 2021 21:19

historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 20:24
No critical shortage was experienced because Germany imported wolfram from Iberia. In this ATL, the Allies invade Iberia no later than July 1943.
A much simpler solution that did not require the allies declaring war on neutrals, with all the issues that would have, was the course the U.S. and UK actually followed. The quantities exported from Portugal to Germany were about half the total imported from Iberia, a maximum of 2,169 tons in 1942 (46% of Portuguese production), but Salazar was resistant to increasing the allowance to Germany - it averaged just 26.4% of total production overall. So instead of trying to strong-arm Salazar they worked on Franco and Spain's half of the supply. Basically, the U.S. with its buying power bid up the price of wolfram in Spain, driving it from $1,141/MT in 2Q41 to a peak of $14,612 in 2Q43. That had two happy results. It forced the Germans to pay a higher price for less ore and added incentive to Franco's decision to stay neutral.
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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Takao » 09 Mar 2021 22:02

historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 20:24
No critical shortage was experienced because Germany imported wolfram from Iberia. In this ATL, the Allies invade Iberia no later than July 1943. Combined with the deprivation of Swedish iron ore and Turkish chromium, German industry would have ground to a halt within a year, and millions of lives would have been saved compared to the OTL.

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... and_Iberia
Germany imported only 835 metric tons of Wolfram from Spain in 1944, and 834 metric ton in 1943.
Letiz, Economic Relations, p.176; NA FO837/721; NA FO837/758; NA
FO837/786, NA FO371/39654; NARA RG84/UD3162/34, chart dated 30 March
1944.

I somehow doubt that the loss of some 1,200 metric tons of Wolfram would have collapsed the German economy.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 22:30

Takao wrote:
09 Mar 2021 22:02
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 20:24
No critical shortage was experienced because Germany imported wolfram from Iberia. In this ATL, the Allies invade Iberia no later than July 1943. Combined with the deprivation of Swedish iron ore and Turkish chromium, German industry would have ground to a halt within a year, and millions of lives would have been saved compared to the OTL.

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... and_Iberia
Germany imported only 835 metric tons of Wolfram from Spain in 1944, and 834 metric ton in 1943.
Letiz, Economic Relations, p.176; NA FO837/721; NA FO837/758; NA
FO837/786, NA FO371/39654; NARA RG84/UD3162/34, chart dated 30 March
1944.

I somehow doubt that the loss of some 1,200 metric tons of Wolfram would have collapsed the German economy.
That does not include tungsten imports from Portugal. Germany imported 1,915 tons of tungsten from Portugal in 1943, and 1,535.5 tons in 1944. See page 84: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... and_Iberia

Going from 2,700 tons to zero, combined with the deprivation of iron from Sweden and chromium from Turkey, would have been devastating for the German economy.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Mar 2021 22:32

Richard Anderson wrote:
09 Mar 2021 21:19
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 20:24
No critical shortage was experienced because Germany imported wolfram from Iberia. In this ATL, the Allies invade Iberia no later than July 1943.
A much simpler solution that did not require the allies declaring war on neutrals, with all the issues that would have, was the course the U.S. and UK actually followed. The quantities exported from Portugal to Germany were about half the total imported from Iberia, a maximum of 2,169 tons in 1942 (46% of Portuguese production), but Salazar was resistant to increasing the allowance to Germany - it averaged just 26.4% of total production overall. So instead of trying to strong-arm Salazar they worked on Franco and Spain's half of the supply. Basically, the U.S. with its buying power bid up the price of wolfram in Spain, driving it from $1,141/MT in 2Q41 to a peak of $14,612 in 2Q43. That had two happy results. It forced the Germans to pay a higher price for less ore and added incentive to Franco's decision to stay neutral.
The Germans still got the tungsten, just as they still got the iron and the chromium. The Allies had an easy means at their disposal for crippling the German war machine, but instead they played political and economic games while millions of people were dying thanks to their inaction.

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Re: The Allies invade neutral countries to cut off German imports of crucial metals

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Mar 2021 22:42

historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Mar 2021 22:32
The Germans still got the tungsten, just as they still got the iron and the chromium. The Allies had an easy means at their disposal for crippling the German war machine, but instead they played political and economic games while millions of people were dying thanks to their inaction.
Oh, sorry, I forgot this was a better mousetrap exercise. Good to know that amphibious invasions were easy...I'll make a note of it.
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