Why North Africa

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William Kramer
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Why North Africa

Post by William Kramer » 06 Dec 2005 22:04

Hello all,

What was the reason that Germany went into North Africa, was there an economic value or oil or something? Please let me know either way. Thank you.

William Kramer

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Christoph Awender
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Post by Christoph Awender » 06 Dec 2005 22:55

Hello

Hitler was forced to deploy forces to help the Italians which came under rising pressure of the British.

\Christoph

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William Kramer
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did he want to

Post by William Kramer » 06 Dec 2005 23:32

Hello,

Did he want to do that? I understand that he was forced by pact, but did he try to get out of it? Thank you for the fast reply.

William Kramer

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Christoph Awender
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Post by Christoph Awender » 06 Dec 2005 23:46

I think the term "was forced" says already that he didn´t want to be too much involved. He had no other choice because he of course saw that he had to stabilize the mediterranean theater.

\Christoph

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e.polis
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Post by e.polis » 07 Dec 2005 10:22

I always thought that it was hitlers idea to take the Suez cannal and disrupt britains trade with countries such as Australia, New Zealand. oil from middle east, supplies and troops from India, Rubber & tin from Malaya and so on and so on.

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Miha Grcar
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Post by Miha Grcar » 08 Dec 2005 21:09

Highly doubtful, don't forget that all preparations were for Barbarossa at the time. Hitler made a quick ad-hoc unit which he called the Afrikakorps and sent it to assist his ally. I doubt that he had any serious thoughts about such plans for a second, not to mention the OKH would probably oppose such plans.

best,
Miha / Nibelung

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Alter Mann
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German Plans For North Africa?

Post by Alter Mann » 13 Dec 2005 01:57

Something I read about, somewhere, said that Germany had a facility that was used to prepare troops for deployment to North Africa. The only part of it that I really remember was that it was supposed to have some kind of 'greenhouse' setup that was used to help people get used to high temperatures. Its obvious that they didn't do much research on the diet and disease prevention methods that were required for the area, but it appears that they did some kind of preparation for deployment of troops to the region.

It also seems that I have seen statements about the troops initially deployed, who had gone through this training, faring better there than re-inforcements who did not get the training.

This may all be one big rumor, but, if not, it would seem to suggest that Hitler did have some plans for the region, although they probably weren't plans that were intended to interfere with Barbarossa.

Has anyone else heard of any German hot weather training facilities?

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 13 Dec 2005 12:06

Van Creveld wrote an interesting book, which regrettably is out of print, in which he analyzes Hitler's strategy in 1940. From the beginning of July until about November, he wanted to throw everything into the defeat of Britain. To that end, he offered to send two Panzer divisions to North Africa to assist Mussolini in the defeat of British forces there. Mussolini declined because he didn't want German interference in a theater that he thought his own.

Then Mussolini embarked on his ill-advised adventures in Greece. Now he was embroiled on two fronts and not winning on either one. Meanwhile, Hitler had not been able to pull off the necessary alliances with Spain and Vichy which he thought necessary to ensure decisive action against Britain and began to turn his eyes to the East. The Greco-Italian war had provided the occasion for British forces to get involved there and possibly pose an unacceptable threat against Germany's Balkan flank. A plan was already afoot to lay an attack on Greece from Bulgaria and forces for that were in motion when a coup overthrew the Yugoslav government that had signed a treaty with Germany, and Hitler decided to invade that country as well.

But even before that could happen, disaster had overtaken the Italian army in Libya and Mussolini was no longer in a position to refuse German aid in that theater either. He needed help just to hold onto that colony, let alone pursue an aggressive campaign into Egypt. I suppose that, given his druthers, Hitler would rather have sent the forces that became the Afrika Korp into the USSR as part of Barbarossa. But it was imperative that the British military presence in the Mediterranean area be neutralized if not eliminated. Italy had shown that it was not capable of performing that task alone and unassisted.

So, that is why he sent forces into North Africa.

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Alter Mann
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Why Did Hitler Become Involved In North Africa

Post by Alter Mann » 13 Dec 2005 16:09

I've read about the early days of the Afrika Korps a number of times, and sometimes I got the feeling that Hitler didn't intend to leave them there for the duration. I'm sure he would have been happier to have them get the Italians back on their feet and then pull them back for use in Barbarossa, but some combination of Italian capabilities and skepticism on Rommel's part seems to have put an end to that idea.

Just think, if the Afrika Korps had been pulled out of North Africa after the first campaign, Malta would never have become such an issue to the German efforts. Probably wouldn't have mattered in the long run, but it is interesting to think that Rommel's campaigns in North Africa might have actually caused Germany's defeat to occur earlier than if Germany had never gotten involved there.

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Post by Rich47 » 18 Dec 2005 16:36

Of all of Hitlers blunders the biggest of them was his inability to have a strategic vision, and patience, needed to support Rommel with the necessary resources to win the battle of North Africa and the Middle East. Why was North Africa important? Because it held the keys into the middle east, the mediterranean, the Suez, Britain's supply lines in the east, and most importantly Russias underbelly.

Delaying the Russian campaign for one year and beating England in NA would have been a terrible blow to Britians morale, would have severed and important line of trade and communications. Most of all to India, which Churchill considred at risk to Japanese attack. Of equal importance of North Africa was the control of the meditterranean sea. If the axis could have wrested such control England would have been in serious trouble and the Germans never would have had to worry about tieing up so many troops, at such a bad time, in Italy.

So one has to ask why didnt they attack Malta with airborne troops? Why not then properly supply the effort in North Africa? The answer is simple. The Germans attacked Crete because it was a base where bombers could stage for attacks on the Romanian oil fields. They secured the Balkans because they needed to before they invaded Russia. Hitlers eye was always to the east and he was obsessed with destroying Bolshevism and European jewry even at the expense of a strategic vision.

Malta and Crete were the two keys to the Med, North Africa, and the Mideast. Had Germany not made an effort in the region her defeat would have surely come much faster. Her ally, Italy, would have most surely fell faster and the threat of invasion "up the boot" would have come quicker. At the very least Germanys effort in the region tied up Allied resources at a time they could least afford it and made the Royal navy pay a price for its mediteranean operations.

Hitlers failure was not in sending the Africa korp. His failure was in not seeing the strategic importance of the region.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 18 Dec 2005 19:30

Rich47 wrote:Of all of Hitlers blunders the biggest of them was his inability to have a strategic vision...
Oh, I think Hitler had a strategic vision alright. It's just that it was unrealistic. He underestimated his enemies and overestimated Germany's ability to wage war successfully against that many big ones.
Why was North Africa important? Because it held the keys into the middle east, the mediterranean, the Suez, Britain's supply lines in the east, and most importantly Russias underbelly.
I would agree that holding the Med and its shores was strategically essential to winning a European war, but I question how useful it would have been to attacking and defeating the USSR. How would Germany have moved armies and supplied them in an attack on the USSR via the Middle East? The infrastructure just isn't there. It would have to be built, and such an undertaking could not escape the notice of the Soviets. It might also have proven beyond the industrial capacity of Germany in light of all the other things being demanded of it at the time.
Delaying the Russian campaign for one year and beating England in NA would have been a terrible blow to Britians morale, would have severed and important line of trade and communications.
But it would have also given the Soviets another year to rearm, reorganize, and to mobilize for war. They had a long way to come, but they weren't letting any grass grow beneath their feet either.
...the Germans never would have had to worry about tieing up so many troops, at such a bad time, in Italy.
I presume you mean in 1943 and later? But they would surely have had troops scatter all over the territories they had conquered in occupation and LoC duties.
So one has to ask why didnt they attack Malta with airborne troops? Why not then properly supply the effort in North Africa? The answer is simple.
Right. It was because Germany was simply stretched too thin to accomplish all the goals Hitler had set out for it, namely to prevail against a world mostly allied against it.
The Germans attacked Crete because it was a base where bombers could stage for attacks on the Romanian oil fields. They secured the Balkans because they needed to before they invaded Russia. Hitlers eye was always to the east and he was obsessed with destroying Bolshevism and European jewry even at the expense of a strategic vision.
But that was Hitler's strategic vision. His mistake was assuming that Britain and the USA could be persuaded to sit back and let him do all that and a lot else besides. While they might have been happy enough to see him destroy Soviet Communism, they definitely were not the least bit interested in seeing Nazi Germany become the sole dominating power in Europe as part of the process.
Hitlers failure was not in sending the Africa korp. His failure was in not seeing the strategic importance of the region.
Could be. But it isn't why he lost the war. Or at least not the sole and probably not the primary reason.

Okay, you are advocating a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern strategy. But even if Hitler goes all out on this one and commits enough forces and resources to pull it off, what then? Optimistically, it is still going to be at least the summer of '42 and quite possibly '43 before he can turn his attention on the USSR. Do you think the Soviets are going to be doing nothing during that time?

I would certainly agree that Hitler's strategic vision was deeply and horrendously flawed. But mostly that consisted in completely failing to understand his opponents. If he had grasped that, he would not have started the war that he did. But if he had been capable of that, he would not have been Hitler either, IMO.

Michael

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Post by Rich47 » 18 Dec 2005 20:09

I don't think there is a logical argument for attacking the Soviets before England was either finished off, or crippled to the point of irrelevance. Whatever the difficulties presented with attacking the Russians a year later they would be minimal compared to what actually happened, that is abandoning the entire Mediterranean theatre to the enemy.

Malta wasn't attacked because Hitler was more interested in the east then the Med. While the air campaign against Malta had some success it was still a mistake not attacking the Island.

A German army group attacking thru southern Russia, thru Persia, is not as crazy as it sounds. If the Germans could have neutralized the Brits in North Africa and the Med this certainly would have been possible. Why not? The same route was a very important supply route for the Russians during the war. And it would have been far better with one army group heading toward Moscow, while a second attacked the south, then in splitting your army into 3 armies, making sure none of them were strong enough to reach their objectives.

All that mattered was Moscow and the southern oil fields anyways. By not dealing with the Mediterranean theatre Hitler ensured a 3 front war that he couldn't possible win.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 18 Dec 2005 20:38

Rich47 wrote:A German army group attacking thru southern Russia, thru Persia, is not as crazy as it sounds. If the Germans could have neutralized the Brits in North Africa and the Med this certainly would have been possible. Why not? The same route was a very important supply route for the Russians during the war.
1. Germany, even Germany and Italy combined, did not have a fraction of the transport capabilities of the Western Allies.

2. The Persian Corridor, which is the Lend-Lease route you are talking about, had to be built during the war. It did not exist except in barely usable unconnected fragments before that. If the Germans are going to supply an army, let alone an entire army group (my god!), they will have to do the same. This will not be a small undertaking. And as I posted earlier, it is not one that would escape the notice of the Soviets.
And it would have been far better with one army group heading toward Moscow, while a second attacked the south, then in splitting your army into 3 armies, making sure none of them were strong enough to reach their objectives.
Your army group headed towards Moscow is going to have a hell of a job guarding its flanks without an army group on each side of it advancing as well.

And your army group that is supposedly attacking out of Iran is going to have to get over the Caucasus before it can penetrate into the heart of the USSR, and it will be attacking over a pretty narrow front while it does so.
All that mattered was Moscow and the southern oil fields anyways.
Wrong, so wrong. Both were important, true, but so was much else. You really need to put some more study into the USSR's wartime economy and infrastructure. And anyway, attacking from the south is not the most efficient way to deprive the USSR of its oil. Cutting the communications links along which the oil was transported, particularly the Volga, was. But Germany simply did not have enough to do even that.
By not dealing with the Mediterranean theatre Hitler ensured a 3 front war that he couldn't possible win.
Pursuing an all-out Mediterranean strategy doesn't make the problem go away though. Hitler is still stuck with a two-front war, and he can't win that either.

Michael

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Post by john1761 » 18 Dec 2005 21:33

Rich47, You must also rember that the Germans had to secure their southern front in Russia to protect the Oil fields in Polesti . If I redmber correctly Zukov himself had war gamed an invasion through the balkans piror to Barbarossa. So the Germans still would have needed at least two army groups. Most of Russias T-34's were in the SW military district before Barbarossa. That lead some to conclude Stalin was preparing to attack first through the balkans. Getting back on topic , I think it was a mistake not to attack Malta but, any futher push by the DAK through the middle east to the caucus is unlikely.

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Post by Jon G. » 19 Dec 2005 04:06

Hi Rich,

I think you raise some valid points about Hitler's Mediterranean strategy (or the absence of it), but I also think you're missing some key issues.
Rich47 wrote:I don't think there is a logical argument for attacking the Soviets before England was either finished off, or crippled to the point of irrelevance. Whatever the difficulties presented with attacking the Russians a year later they would be minimal compared to what actually happened, that is abandoning the entire Mediterranean theatre to the enemy.
I think there was a real element of time pressure behind the Barbarossa schedule and the decision to launch it already in 1941. Hitler might have been able to postpone Barbarossa until 1942 without the Soviets attacking him first, but the Soviets were in the middle of modernizing the Red Army, and relations between Germany and the USSR were deteriorating after the Ribbentrop-Molotov meeting in October 1940 which meant that the element of surprise might well be lost if the Germans attacked any later than 1941.

Also, Hitler did not quite abandon the Mediterranean theater - for one thing he did send the DAK, and he also waged the brief Balkans campaign in the spring of 1941, as well as conquering Crete.

A more coherent or focussed German Mediterranean strategy would have needed the active cooperation of Spain, Vichy France, Italy and possibly also Greece and/or Turkey, and of these countries (all of which had mutually opposing interests) only Italy really wanted to play along. Hitler vainly courted Petain and Franco at Montoire and Hendaye in October 1940, and the next month Mussolini attacked Greece. From then on, German Mediterranean strategy, such as it was, had helping Mussolini as its main aim. The Mediterranean was outsourced to Mussolini as a parallel war.
Malta wasn't attacked because Hitler was more interested in the east then the Med. While the air campaign against Malta had some success it was still a mistake not attacking the Island.
No, Malta was not attacked because general Student, commander of the German airborne forces, favoured Crete over Malta. German resources were too limited to deal with both Malta and Crete.
A German army group attacking thru southern Russia, thru Persia, is not as crazy as it sounds...
I have to echo Michael's response here. A full army group operating in a mountainous region with very limited infrastructure is out of the question. Less might have sufficed, however, especially if the Turks could be persuaded to join the Axis side.

German interest in the Middle East was real enough, and it predated Hitler. Many of the early excavations in ancient Mesopotamia were done by German archeaologists, for example. Abwehr studies from the early 1930s concluded that Persian infrastructure was sufficient for two mountain divisions to attack across the border in the direction of Baku. But like most other suggestions as to how Hitler might have done things differently in the Mediterranean region, it is ultimately a question of politics more than it is a question of strategy.

Attacking (and expecting to beat) the Soviet Union was Hitler's solution to the strategic problem posed by Britain still being in the war.

Edited embarrassing geography errors.

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