Winnie and the Balkans

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Kingfish
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Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Kingfish » 11 Feb 2021 01:19

Can someone please explain the reason for Churchill's fascination with the Balkans and Europe's "Soft Underbelly"?
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 11 Feb 2021 20:00

Hi KF,

Can you explain what you mean? Is there a particular time in the war that you are talking about? He wasn't "fascinated" with it for the whole war but there were certainly times when he seems to have "got a bee in his bonnet about it". Huge subject though, so would help if you could narrow your scope down a bit. Are you talking about WW2 only?

Regards

Tom

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Kingfish
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Kingfish » 12 Feb 2021 02:25

Strictly WW2, and with regards to a time frame I would guess post Torch on, and more specifically the planning stages of Dragoon.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 14 Feb 2021 13:36

Kingfish wrote:
12 Feb 2021 02:25
more specifically the planning stages of Dragoon
So post-D-day?

Regards

Tom

Peter89
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Peter89 » 23 Feb 2021 09:00

The MTO was a clash zone of spheres of influence. The French, the Turks, the Italians, the Spanish all wanted their share, as well as the Russians wanted to come to the table.

Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire. The lynchpin of the said Empire was the Middle East and the Mediterraneum; it provided the best connection between East Africa, India / Raj, the Eastern colonies and the British Isles.

Winning the war alone was not good enough as the Levant crisis and the Persian crisis proved immediately after the war. The French and the Russians had to be kept in bay, and independence movements should be "governed", thus ensure Britain's long term interests.

American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Sheldrake
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Feb 2021 15:24

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
The MTO was a clash zone of spheres of influence. The French, the Turks, the Italians, the Spanish all wanted their share, as well as the Russians wanted to come to the table.

Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire. The lynchpin of the said Empire was the Middle East and the Mediterraneum; it provided the best connection between East Africa, India / Raj, the Eastern colonies and the British Isles.

Winning the war alone was not good enough as the Levant crisis and the Persian crisis proved immediately after the war. The French and the Russians had to be kept in bay, and independence movements should be "governed", thus ensure Britain's long term interests.

American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
True. Churchill and the rest of the British government wanted to maintain the empire. The Middle east was a point which attracted enemy threats - in from Napoleon in 1798 and the Kaiser in 1914. It was also a place to assemble troops and resources from Australia New Zealand South Africa and India. So it made sense to look for useful objectives that could be achieved from the eastern med.

Churchill as a historian, former head of the navy and politician believed in the indirect approach. This involved using seapower to launch the army where the enemy was weakest, with attenuated logistics and where British presence could stimulate and support local allies. It worked in Spain 1808-1814. It didn't work so well in the Dardanelles, but whether this was because it was a bad idea or just poorly executed is still debated. He also loathed what he saw as the unimaginative slaughter of the western front. For him wars were won by dashing and cunning rather than by attrition, logistics, prudent planning and material superiority. Churchill also had an instinctive understanding of Hitler's thinking, as Churchill's obsessions with the Balkans and Norway were mirrored by Hitler. Churchill tried until 1943 to persuade the Turks to join the allies.

The American General staff believed in the direct approach - bring the German's main army to a decisive battle as fast as possible. This was in line with the Germany First strategy, which put the US Army in the saddle, rather than the war against Japan which was run by their real enemy the US Navy. Whether the direct approach was the most sensible approach is very debatable. The most plausible scenarios for an Axis victory in WW2 include a premature western allied invasion of France.

The US Army's preference for the direct approach goes back at least to the US Civil War. The main focus of Union army was to defeat Lee's Army of North Virginia on the direct route to the Confederate Capital. This policy failed for four years. Success was only achieved after the CSA had been isolated using Union sea power, with Union landings at New Orleans and around the coast and the army of the west ate its way across the CSA. Were the US Generals any more sensible demanding an early second front than Union Generals John Pope, Ambrose T Burnside or "Fightin Joe" Hooker who sought decisive battles with Robert E lee and lost them? Sure the Union troops would rally round the flag, and the US could replenish losses from a failed D Day - but could their British allies?

it may have been Lincoln who summarised union strategy as "those that aint skinning grab a leg and pull". This was the strategy that emerged from WW2 allied co-operation against a similar weaker but tactically competent enemy.

Churchill was also concerned about the political future of post war Europe. He mistrusted Stalin, By occupying Greece and supporting Tito he may have prevented the whole of the Balkans becoming Soviet satraps.

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Aber » 24 Feb 2021 10:06

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
Up to a point; the US did not consider Hungary part of the European Theatre until February 1943.

The US took a very limited view of where it should be fighting the war (in particular NOT the Balkans), Churchill took a more expansive view.

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Peter89 » 24 Feb 2021 10:58

Aber wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:06
Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration. Now in our times it seems that Britain was "fascinated" with the MTO, but in fact that was still the age of colonialization, so maintaining colonial interests was imperative.
Up to a point; the US did not consider Hungary part of the European Theatre until February 1943.

The US took a very limited view of where it should be fighting the war (in particular NOT the Balkans), Churchill took a more expansive view.
I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Aber » 25 Feb 2021 12:55

Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
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Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 Feb 2021 18:21

Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
Churchill thought in broad, political terms, and wanted to maintain the Empire.
True, and he also wanted to win the war. :D
Sheldrake wrote:
23 Feb 2021 15:24
Churchill also had an instinctive understanding of Hitler's thinking, as Churchill's obsessions with the Balkans and Norway were mirrored by Hitler.
For good economic reasons, mainly oil and mineral resources as I understand it.
Sheldrake wrote:
23 Feb 2021 15:24
This was in line with the Germany First strategy,
I think it was actually called Europe First. And for good reason, the war wasn't being fought against just Germany!
Peter89 wrote:
23 Feb 2021 09:00
American strategy was more direct and more sensible, because they took no colonial interests into consideration.
More direct perhaps but that doesn't make it sensible! Delusional, one could argue. :wink:

Anyway, didn't some famous old German chap write a small book about the primacy of politics in war? :idea:

Regards

Tom

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Feb 2021 19:30

Aber wrote:
25 Feb 2021 12:55
Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
The timings of the boundary changes probably reflects the narrowing of US focus after debating strategy with the British.

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by EwenS » 26 Feb 2021 08:58

Sheldrake wrote:
25 Feb 2021 19:30
Aber wrote:
25 Feb 2021 12:55
Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
The timings of the boundary changes probably reflects the narrowing of US focus after debating strategy with the British.
The maps relate only to the ETO. August 1942 for the first set of boundaries pre-dates the formation of the North African Theatre of Operations (later Mediterranean Theatre of Operations) in Sept 1942.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 09 Mar 2021 11:15

KF,

Look here:

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=256053

For some interesting economic statistics on the importance of the Balkans to the German imports of chrome which were vital to the German war economy.

Regards

Tom

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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Mar 2021 18:31

Aber wrote:
25 Feb 2021 12:55
Peter89 wrote:
24 Feb 2021 10:58


I kind of don't understand your comment; how does Hungary comes into the picture at all? It's not part of the Balkans thus irrelevant to our discussion.
An example of the limited US view of where it should be fighting - see map from Ruppenthal
Be more illustrative if it was a topo map. ;)

Germany was the linchpin of the European Axis and by far, the only Axis power with the scientific and industrial strength to potentially pose a threat to the Western Hemisphere, if left unchecked.

Germany First was, indeed, the US strategy from the fall of France onwards, for just that reason.

Germany's administrative (and transport) heart was Berlin and the Berlin region; it's industrial heart was the Ruhr. Potential secondary centers were Vienna for administration and the Galician and Silesian regions for industry. (there were others, but those are the most significant ones).

Destroying Nazi Germany required the Ruhr and Berlin, essentially; the shortest (and flattest) route to both, as long as the UK remained in the war, was via northwestern France and Belgium; Provence added a second sea route and the ability to get a French field army into the war. Supporting the Soviets through a second front and supply (North Russia, Persian Corridor, and North Pacific) was also significant, although once the possibility of a Soviet collapse akin to 1917 faded in 1942, the operational US forces that were necessary to support the Soviet supply efforts were reduced.

Understanding the above makes the US thinking pretty easy to follow. The Americans wanted to win the war with Germany in 1941-45 (as was envisioned in 1917-19) and win the peace (as was lost in 1919-39); the British, since they lived in Europe, had different priorities for much of 1939-45, most of which revolved around the Mediterranean littoral.

The reality, however, is that spending most of 1943-45 grinding north on the Italian peninsula, through some of the best defensive country in Europe, was very questionable, as would have been trying to do the same in the Balkans.

Again, the topography makes things clear.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Winnie and the Balkans

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Mar 2021 20:49

daveshoup2MD wrote:
13 Mar 2021 18:31
The Americans wanted to win the war with Germany in 1941-45 (as was envisioned in 1917-19) and win the peace (as was lost in 1919-39); the British, since they lived in Europe, had different priorities for much of 1939-45, most of which revolved around the Mediterranean littoral.
Well, the British certainly wanted to win both the war and the peace...
daveshoup2MD wrote:
13 Mar 2021 18:31
Again, the topography makes things clear.
And a chart makes the presence of the Atlantic and that annoying Channel clear as well!

Regards

Tom

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