The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 4085
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Richard Anderson » 12 Dec 2020 17:15

AnchorSteam wrote:
12 Dec 2020 08:23
Yes, I agree to all of that.
I just thought that if there was an Inspector Gerneral of Panzers or something like that, he would have done some shuffling around with various units.
Yes, there was, as of February 1943, the Inspekteur der Panzertruppen was Heinz Guderian. However, it was a post in a large, monolithic and bureaucratic, and heavily regimented institution. It did not function like a bunch of ten-year olds trading baseball cards.
For example, there were 49 Mk. III with long 40mm with HG in Sicily, and 432 on the Kursk front. A little wheeling & dealing could have seen a trade of several of the medium tanks for each Tiger sent east, a good trade for all concerned.
The reason they were distributed like that is because they were part of organizations, the Panzer regiments and battalions that were part of Panzer and the new Panzergrenadier divisions. They had been organized according to the doctrine developed between c. 1929-1939, which utilized two types of tanks, the Panzer III and the Panzer IV, in its tactics. The desired organizational ratio chosen was three companies of Panzer III to one company of supporting Panzer IV, while the ratio achieved in most cases was two-to-one.

Deployment of the 5cm K and 5cm L armed Panzer III in 1941 and 1942 did not change that distribution, nor initially did the deployment of the 7.5cm KwK L43 and L48; they were typically distributed on a one-for-one basis for the earlier model Panzer III and IV in the organizations. It was after Stalingrad and Tunisia, when the wave of reconstituted Panzer organizations were created to replace those lost that the situation changed. By then, it was decided that production should focus on the Panzer IV with the long 7.5cm guns, while production of the Panzer III switched over to the new Panther, which would replace both. So, as reconstituted, units like 14. and 16. Panzer Division dropped the Panzer III, while others, such as 26. Panzer and HG, kept a mix of Panzer III and IV. It was further complicated by the deployment of the Panzer III (Flamm) to some of those units.

The Tiger battalions were a slightly different matter, since they were non-divisional units, intended as an augmentation for the Panzer Korps...thus one per SS-Panzer Korps as they were organized, and for the renamed Armee-Korps (mot), which became III, XIV, XXIV, XXXIX, XXXX, XXXXI, XXXXVI, XXXXVII, XXXXVIII, LVI, and LVII Panzer-Korps, March-July 1942. Thus, 11 schwere Panzer Abteilungen (Tiger) were originally intended.

Of course, that plan didn't survive, mostly because they did do what you suggest, by shuffling some of the early Tiger organizations (elements of 501. and 504.) to Africa, so they could over-match the Allied tanks there. It didn't work, but the impulsive deployment left the remnants of those elements in Sicily, then Italy.
And yes, Stalin was a bastard, and not nearly as competant as some people seem to think. His big victories always seemed to be dependant on being timed to match the big moves made in the west; Stalingrad with Torch, Kursk with Sicily, and Bagration with D-Day.
Um, ZITADELLE was a German offensive, so Stalin could hardly have timed it to match any move in the west. :D
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

User avatar
AnchorSteam
Member
Posts: 261
Joined: 31 Oct 2020 05:43
Location: WAY out there

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by AnchorSteam » 12 Dec 2020 23:12

Sheldrake wrote:
12 Dec 2020 10:52
As Rich posted in #12. This wasn't a war game. Generals move units not individual tanks.

In general the Germans and Allies were selective about the equipment sent to each theatre. The Allies rushed M4 Sherman tanks to Egypt in Summer 1942 after the fall of Tobruk.
Yes, that is exactly where I am coming from on this. And The US did not send any Shermans with 76mm guns or 17-pounders to fight Japan.
Sheldrake wrote:
12 Dec 2020 10:52
The Germans did not deploy any Panthers to Italy until Anzio. The Germans raised the 21st Panzer Division from recycled French AFVs soelely for use in the west The British did not send Fireflys 17 pounder Sherman tanks to Italy until after Normandy.

Tanks only work well when manned by the crews trained to use them. Divisions work best when their component units have trained together with the mix of equipment they expect. Sure it was possible to assign particular equipment to particular theatres, but it takes time to learn how to operate and use different equipment. Taking over a Tiger tank wasn't like taking over a hire car on holiday/vacation.

The divisions in France and Italy might be transferred to the Eastern Front at short notice. When they got there they would be expected to be combat effective. In Panzer Leader Guderian wrote about the problems of the 25th Panzer Division in the Ukraine. This formation was raised in Norway and then flung into battle piecemeal in the Ukraine.

There was also the often ignored matter of logistics. Railway space was limited and precious. Swapping a train load of Tiger tanks in Sicily for two train loads of Panzer III from the Ukraine was a lot of effort for a marginal gain.
No, I was not talking about swapping out after the fact. All that stuff had to be coming from somewhere, and now that I know Guderian had that post from January I would have expected that somebody would have their hand on the spigot when it comes to what is being sent where.

Thats all, thanks for the reply, yours was a good one.

As for that other guy....
I won't be responding to any posters that are trying to talk down to me, that is always a waste of time.

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 4085
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Richard Anderson » 13 Dec 2020 01:34

AnchorSteam wrote:
12 Dec 2020 23:12
Sheldrake wrote:
12 Dec 2020 10:52
As Rich posted in #12. This wasn't a war game. Generals move units not individual tanks.

In general the Germans and Allies were selective about the equipment sent to each theatre. The Allies rushed M4 Sherman tanks to Egypt in Summer 1942 after the fall of Tobruk.
Yes, that is exactly where I am coming from on this. And The US did not send any Shermans with 76mm guns or 17-pounders to fight Japan.
The Allies rushed the Medium Tank M4 to Egypt because Churchill made a request to Roosevelt for them. It was not a military decision, it was a political one.

The American decision making process was different from the German example for a number of reasons. Remember the German organization? The Panzer Abteilung (battalion) was organized prewar and early-war with leichte (light) and mittlere (medium) Kompanien (companies). The Panzer III, even though it was effectively a "medium" tank was designed to slot into the "light tank" company of the battalion, the Panzer IV into the "medium tank" company of the battalion. That is the way they were designed and developed to fit the tactical organization prewar experimentation told the Germans was appropriate.

The Americans followed a different route, for different reasons. In the end, they designed a medium tank, the M4, which was purposely intended to be fielded with different weapons, a 75mm gun, a 3" gun, or a 105mm howitzer. Various problems meant the 3" (designated 76mm) gun and 105mm howitzer-armed tanks were not ready until late spring 1944. The 75mm and 76mm were both considered "gun tanks" organizationally, and the powers that be left the theater commanders to request what type they wanted, which, given the dearth of actual combat experience led to so interesting decisions. For example, in the ETOUSA, in early 1944, before D-Day, they requested a ratio of two howitzer tanks to one gun tank...and wanted the gun tank to be a 90mm. In the SWPA and POA, the commanders were happy with the 75mm M4 and only wanted the 105mm howitzer.
No, I was not talking about swapping out after the fact. All that stuff had to be coming from somewhere, and now that I know Guderian had that post from January I would have expected that somebody would have their hand on the spigot when it comes to what is being sent where.
He did, but was fixated on his POV based upon his early war experience. He believed the original two-Panzer regiment divisional organization was correct and that the strength of the division should never have been dissipated. He pushed the idea of organizing reserve Panzer regiment and brigade headquarters, attaching Panther and Tiger battalions to them, and then assigning them as second regiments to divisions in major offensives. They tried it at Kursk and then Anzio, without much success. That was about as far as his authority went.

The other problem the Germans had was that when the decided to build the Panther as the medium tank replacement for both the Panzer III and IV, it developed that converting both types production would result in too great a shortfall, so they kept the Panzer IV. On top of that since the Panther was a new type they could not simply send them to units in combat, so instead they withdrew the cadre personnel from the divisions in the field, typically using the existing tanks to reorganize as a single-battalion regiment, and sent the personnel back to German for training and equipping with the Panther. The problem, for many of the divisions, was that all too often the Panther battalion never came back or came back only months later. Instead, they got sent off to deal with emergencies.
Thats all, thanks for the reply, yours was a good one.

As for that other guy....
I won't be responding to any posters that are trying to talk down to me, that is always a waste of time.
Sorry to hear that.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

LineDoggie
Member
Posts: 560
Joined: 03 Oct 2008 20:06

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by LineDoggie » 13 Dec 2020 03:26

AnchorSteam wrote:
12 Dec 2020 23:12


Yes, that is exactly where I am coming from on this. And The US did not send any Shermans with 76mm guns or 17-pounders to fight Japan.
Well honestly the Japanese just didn't have armor threat to justify requesting the 76mm which had a less effective HE punch then the 75mm. The most "modern"encountered Japanese tanks (Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha) were pitifully armored (33mm max). The 76mm would just complicate the logistics pipeline for spares and ammo. The 75mm and 105mm M4 series were well up to the job in the PTO and could handle armor and field fortifications with their guns.
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

EwenS
Member
Posts: 173
Joined: 04 May 2020 11:37
Location: Scotland

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by EwenS » 13 Dec 2020 09:06

AnchorSteam wrote:
12 Dec 2020 23:12
Sheldrake wrote:
12 Dec 2020 10:52
As Rich posted in #12. This wasn't a war game. Generals move units not individual tanks.

In general the Germans and Allies were selective about the equipment sent to each theatre. The Allies rushed M4 Sherman tanks to Egypt in Summer 1942 after the fall of Tobruk.
Yes, that is exactly where I am coming from on this. And The US did not send any Shermans with 76mm guns or 17-pounders to fight Japan.
Only because the European war had priority for tanks and because the Pacific war ended before the US Army re-equipment plans of July 1945 could be carried out. See this re planned shape of US Army tank battalions ahead of Operation Olympic. There were plans to ship late model Sherman’s direct from the ETO to the Pacific.
https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/43946.html

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 9166
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Dec 2020 16:43

Hi Guys,

Not only the Germans deployed unusual, less-than-elite, units in Italy.

The Allied order of battle was enormously polyglot. Some of them were good, but most of them were at best average. Some weren't even deployed in the front line for a number of political and logistical reasons.

From memory, they included Brazilian and Black American Divisions, several Royalist Italian, Greek and Jewish Brigades, Japanese American, Puerto Rican and British Caribbean Regiments, French-speaking Cajun, Maori, Royalist Yugoslav and Indian Princely State Battalions, etc, etc...... and this is to miss some and is without going through all the French and other more prominent British Commonwealth contributions.

Many of these were probably not deployable on a major "2nd Front" against the best German forces, but they were good enough to tie down Germany's own third team.

Cheers,

Sid.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1934
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Gooner1 » 14 Dec 2020 15:25

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Dec 2020 16:43
Hi Guys,

Not only the Germans deployed unusual, less-than-elite, units in Italy.

The Allied order of battle was enormously polyglot. Some of them were good, but most of them were at best average. Some weren't even deployed in the front line for a number of political and logistical reasons.

From memory, they included Brazilian and Black American Divisions, several Royalist Italian, Greek and Jewish Brigades, Japanese American, Puerto Rican and British Caribbean Regiments, French-speaking Cajun, Maori, Royalist Yugoslav and Indian Princely State Battalions, etc, etc...... and this is to miss some and is without going through all the French and other more prominent British Commonwealth contributions.

Many of these were probably not deployable on a major "2nd Front" against the best German forces, but they were good enough to tie down Germany's own third team.

Cheers,

Sid.
Well Eighth Army had always been a ployglot (diverse and inclusive :D ) formation. Allied Armies in Italy became particularly diverse really only after the loss of divisions for Anvil/Dragoon, at which point I'm not sure Germany even had a first team anymore?

On the eve of Diadem German Army Group C was by no means a third team. Proportionately more armour than on the Eastern Front I believe, most of its infantry divisions still on the old 9 battalion pattern and with a high proportion of its divisions in the highest combat value categories - 9 out of the 12 divisions in 10th Army and army group reserve being rated Kampfwert I or II.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2976
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Sheldrake » 14 Dec 2020 19:55

Sid Guttridge wrote:
13 Dec 2020 16:43
Hi Guys,

Not only the Germans deployed unusual, less-than-elite, units in Italy.

The Allied order of battle was enormously polyglot. Some of them were good, but most of them were at best average. Some weren't even deployed in the front line for a number of political and logistical reasons.

From memory, they included Brazilian and Black American Divisions, several Royalist Italian, Greek and Jewish Brigades, Japanese American, Puerto Rican and British Caribbean Regiments, French-speaking Cajun, Maori, Royalist Yugoslav and Indian Princely State Battalions, etc, etc...... and this is to miss some and is without going through all the French and other more prominent British Commonwealth contributions.
Hmm

I am not sure that the German formations assigned to Italy were worse or varied than those reserved to fight the Second Front. The forces of OB West were a victim of "Atlantic Wall" Thinking. If the Atlantic Wall looked strong enough, the Allies would not attack. So it did not matter if the equipment was a random collection of captured stocks manned by anyone who could be persuaded to don German uniform. The soldiers on the Italian Front had to fight a series of defensive battles.

The British deployment was partially driven by logistics. It made sense to deploy Indian Army and New Zealand Formations, but these were far from second rate.

The New Zealand Division was arguable on one of the best allied formations in any theatre. It had a unique organisation similar to a strong Panzer Division with seven infantry, three armoured and a cavalry(recce) Regiment. The Maori battalion had an exceptional fighting record.

Indian Army troops were well trained for mountain operations. Agrarian Cypriots, Palestinians and Italians were probably better as mule skinners that the average Brit or Yank.

The British thought the Italians would make decent troops if treated the same way as other native troops - as would American Black troops if the US Army allowed blck soldiers to feel as proud of their heritage as say Sikhs, Jats or Rajputs.

Sure there was a Jewish Brigade and a Greek Brigade, but there were Belgian,Czech and Dutch Brigades in NW Europe.

Agreed, the Americans did regard Italy as the place for troops that didn't fit anywhere else. The segregated Black 92nd Division performed poorly, but the Nisei were probably one of the most determined US infantry Units. The Special Service Brigade and Rangers were very good material as was the 10th Mountain Division

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1934
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Gooner1 » 15 Dec 2020 13:07

Sheldrake wrote:
14 Dec 2020 19:55

Indian Army troops were well trained for mountain operations.
Yes and British 78th Division was thought to be good in the mountains and was considered by the Germans to be somewhat of an elite unit. Unfortunately Oliver Leese preferred to fight his battles in the valleys and lower ground where all the rivers and all the Germans were.

Whilst they could fight as good as anyone a problem with the polyglot of nations is that they all tended to be more casualty conscious. Few could take the level of casualties of, say, US divisions and still remain combat effective.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 9166
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 Dec 2020 19:43

Hi Gooner,

Casualties were a significant factor.

For instance the British Caribbean Regiment couldn't be used at the front in Italy because it didn't have a steady replacement stream.

The USA's Puerto Rican regiment was also barely used at the front, at least partly because of the political consequences of heavy casualties.

The Indian Army certainly had some units, notably the Gurkhas, who were naturals in the mountains, but many others weren't and had to hone such skills on the North West Frontier. However, these skills acquired pre-war tended to be dissipated in the massive wartime expansion of the Indian Army.

The Indian Army had a problem topping up units because of the complexities of the "martial races" policy. Men couldn't just be posted to any unit. So what the Indian Army tended to do in Italy was rotate entire battalions to and from its PAI Force divisions in the Middle East. PAI Force battalions were sent to Italy to replace hard hit battalions that were sent back to PAI Force. Thus PAI Force was a bit like the German Ersatzheer divisions deployed outside the Reich - they combined occupation duties with training duties.

Cheers,

Sid.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1934
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Gooner1 » 17 Dec 2020 13:01

Sid Guttridge wrote:
16 Dec 2020 19:43
The Indian Army had a problem topping up units because of the complexities of the "martial races" policy. Men couldn't just be posted to any unit. So what the Indian Army tended to do in Italy was rotate entire battalions to and from its PAI Force divisions in the Middle East. PAI Force battalions were sent to Italy to replace hard hit battalions that were sent back to PAI Force. Thus PAI Force was a bit like the German Ersatzheer divisions deployed outside the Reich - they combined occupation duties with training duties.

Cheers,

Sid.
More of a problem was the length of time it took to train British King's Commissioned Officers, who had to be proficient in Urdu and usually another language such as Gurkhali, depending on the troops they were commanding and who ideally formed a long and close bond with the troops they commanded. Viceroy Commissioned Officers were long serving Indian/Gurkha soldiers promoted from the ranks and expected to be able to communicate in English.
Clearly both were more difficult to replace when a battalion suffered heavy casualties in which officers invariably suffered the heaviest.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2976
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Sheldrake » 17 Dec 2020 19:23

Gooner1 wrote:
15 Dec 2020 13:07
Sheldrake wrote:
14 Dec 2020 19:55

Indian Army troops were well trained for mountain operations.
Yes and British 78th Division was thought to be good in the mountains and was considered by the Germans to be somewhat of an elite unit. Unfortunately Oliver Leese preferred to fight his battles in the valleys and lower ground where all the rivers and all the Germans were.

Whilst they could fight as good as anyone a problem with the polyglot of nations is that they all tended to be more casualty conscious. Few could take the level of casualties of, say, US divisions and still remain combat effective.
What made US infantry formations resilient was the level of replacements. The high casualties mitigated against them being highly trained in light infantry operations. US specialists such as the rangers and the US/Canadian Special Service Force were also fragile for the same reason.

One feature of the fighting in Italy is that the WW2 model of mobility is reversed. The big picture story of land warfare in WW2 is that mechanization and armour conferred mobility. Blitzkrieg - desert war etc. But in Italy the terrain limited off road movement, and much important ground was impassable to vehicles. So the key manouvre arm was light infantry. Its what Tuker was arguing before 3rd Cassino and what the FEC did in Op Diadem.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1934
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Gooner1 » 18 Dec 2020 15:06

Sheldrake wrote:
17 Dec 2020 19:23
One feature of the fighting in Italy is that the WW2 model of mobility is reversed. The big picture story of land warfare in WW2 is that mechanization and armour conferred mobility. Blitzkrieg - desert war etc. But in Italy the terrain limited off road movement, and much important ground was impassable to vehicles. So the key manouvre arm was light infantry. Its what Tuker was arguing before 3rd Cassino and what the FEC did in Op Diadem.
Also pretty implicit in John Harding's plan to tackle the Gothic Line.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 8594
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 20 Dec 2020 00:02

Sheldrake wrote:
17 Dec 2020 19:23
... One feature of the fighting in Italy is that the WW2 model of mobility is reversed. The big picture story of land warfare in WW2 is that mechanization and armour conferred mobility. Blitzkrieg - desert war etc. But in Italy the terrain limited off road movement, and much important ground was impassable to vehicles. So the key manouvre arm was light infantry. Its what Tuker was arguing before 3rd Cassino and what the FEC did in Op Diadem.
It should have been the naval ability to execute littoral warfare. But, what WGF Jackson described as the Tyranny of Overlord, ended effective amphib capability with the BRIMSTONE-FIREBRAND operations. By December the Amphib fleet that had landed 130,000+ men in Sicilly could barely manage a single corps. By the start of March 1944 Alexander was left with a token amphib flotilla capable of a single division size assault. Eisenhower had valid reasons for concentration of effort on a single massive blow in NW Europe, but the price was leaving Alexander unable to take advantage of Italys long littorals.

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1934
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The Allies drew as many German divisions into Italy as Stalin had requested for a second front

Post by Gooner1 » 23 Dec 2020 15:40

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
20 Dec 2020 00:02
It should have been the naval ability to execute littoral warfare. But, what WGF Jackson described as the Tyranny of Overlord, ended effective amphib capability with the BRIMSTONE-FIREBRAND operations. By December the Amphib fleet that had landed 130,000+ men in Sicilly could barely manage a single corps. By the start of March 1944 Alexander was left with a token amphib flotilla capable of a single division size assault. Eisenhower had valid reasons for concentration of effort on a single massive blow in NW Europe, but the price was leaving Alexander unable to take advantage of Italys long littorals.
The Allies in Italy usually had the next best thing to the support of a large amphibious fleet - the enemy believing that the Allies had the support of a large amphibious fleet. As Anzio showed the requirement for a successful landing on the Italian littoral was sufficient force superiority to prevent getting hemmed into a narrow bridgehead. As the success of Operation Diadem showed if the Allied Armies in Italy had sufficient force superiority to mount a successful amphibious landing then they probably didn't need to.

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”