Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

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bam
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Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by bam » 06 Apr 2021 02:09

Sorry, I apologise for bringing up this old favourite, "could Germany beat the soviets"?, but I think I've got a new angle.

Germany Could have done it, if Italy hadn't intervened. The unplanned Italian declaration of war against France and England in june 1940 would by June 1941 cost Germany 4 panzer divisions, 350 Ju52s, a couple of hundred bombers and bf109s, untold supplies, time, occupation troops for the Balkans, and force Germany to fight on 2 extra fronts, African and Balkan.

By joining the war, Italy invited the British to attack in Africa, requiring 2 panzer divisions and 200 odd aircraft from Germany.
By invading the Balkans in Oct 1940, (idiocy, who invades a mountainous country at the start of winter?) and failing so badly, and drawing the British into the region, Germany was forced to invade the Balkans to prevent the British from threatening his southern flank and Ploesti. If Mussolini hadn't invaded, the Balkans remains a perfect neutral barrier that Britain can't attack through, and saves Germany having to try garrisoning an unruleable area.
Instead Germany lost 2 more panzer divs (2nd & 5th) that only rejoined action in October, which was too late. And lost 300 ju52s and their parachute division in Crete. And they list precious time in their build up to Barbarossa.

Hitler needed to bully, threaten (or assassinate) Mussolini to prevent his daft military decisions which robbed Germany of 4 panzer divisions, a full parachute div, 350 Ju52s (Crete lost 300, Africa 50), 200 other front line planes, tons of troops misused in the Balkans, and loads of supplies. With Hitler only facing Britain across the channel, he was free to simply push everything else logistically to the east, and could choose an earlier start date, (though that would probably only gain a few weeks as a May start date now looks impossible due to the flood state of the rivers in the east Poland region.)

The extra 4 panzer divs and the Para div amounts to almost another Panzergroup, something sorely needed in Army groups north or south in summer 41. The extra 350 ju52s adds 50% more airlift capacity exactly when it's needed most, enabling spearheads to be supplied without roads or railways. The troops not occupying the Balkans could help clear the rear areas of bypassed soviet troops and partisans. 200 extra front line planes are always useful. And a start date at the beginning of June..?

It all adds up, I feel, to enough of a difference for the Germans to have captured Moscow before the mud period in October. They would then have been able to settle into strong winter positions, denying the Soviets their Dec 41 counterattack success. This would mean, psychologically, the Soviets only knew defeat, and 1942 would look very different. The loss of Moscow, prestige aside, means a great loss or disruption of manufacturing, population, electricity generation, railway infrastructure and connectivity (Moscow is the physical rail hub, you can't just move it to the Urals.)

Italy staying neutral means Germany can concentrate nearly everything against the Soviets. There were just 2 Jagdgeschwaders of bf 109s, less than 200 planes, facing England after June 1941. In terms of ground troops, it meant just 3rd rate occupation troops were needed on the French coast, as England was in no position to invade in 1941 or 42...
Italy joining the war meant Germany had an extra 2 fronts, an African front, a Balkan front, at exactly the same time that it needed everything for fighting the Soviets, who had been greatly underestimated.

Was Italy the difference between Germany beating Stalin? Discuss please.

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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by Max Payload » 06 Apr 2021 10:34

Mussolini’s imperial ambitions would never have been limited to Abyssinia. But if the Med had remained conflict-free, the RN, in the absence of any significant opposing force, would have been able to monitor and, if necessary, control Mediterranean Sea trade. Britain would also control the Caspian-Mediterranean land bridge through effective political control of Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. With no significant German surface fleet to contend with, Britain could also control Trans-Atlantic trade into Europe, effectively blockading German-held territory, and potentially that of the whole continent, with the exception, pre-Barbarossa, of supplies from the Soviet Union.
In the absence of ground combat anywhere, Britain would have had more resources to counter the U-Boat threat, mount more frequent air attacks on German assets and, playing on Hitler’s sensitivity, would have had the resources to make an invasion of Norway appear more credible. Britain may not have had the resources to invade across the Channel, but the possibility may have diverted more resources to the defence of northern France than Germany actually committed. Also, with the Med under the control of the RN, the possibility of a British invasion of the French Mediterranean coast had to be taken into account.
All this could have diverted from Barbarossa the same resources that were actually unavailable for the Soviet invasion as a result of Italian military adventures in the Balkan’s and NA. (I’m assuming the the Yugoslav coup would still have occurred with a similar German response.)
Aircraft losses in the Balkans were significant, but I haven’t seen any evidence that the availability of more aircraft in the opening phase of Barbarossa would have significantly improved the pace of ground operations. The damage done to the Red Air Force in June 1941 could hardly have been much greater even if more aircraft had been available to the German air fleets. Subsequently, where ground support was needed, it was generally available. Where emergency resupply by air was needed (such as to part of XXIV Pz Corps in August when the Mglin-Unecha road was cut) the necessary resupply was provided.


bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 02:09
With Hitler only facing Britain across the channel, he was free to simply push everything else logistically to the east, and could choose an earlier start date, (though that would probably only gain a few weeks as a May start date now looks impossible due to the flood state of the rivers in the east Poland region.)
See viewtopic.php?f=55&t=218429&start=390

bam
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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by bam » 06 Apr 2021 11:49

I agree that the issue of an earlier start date for barbarossa is a contentious minefield, so I'll sideline that debate and state that I think even with a 22nd June start, the extra panzer divisions and aircraft would have enabled a German capture of Moscow.

I disagree with you, that Britain could have done ANYTHING in terms of ground warfare in France or southern Europe in 1941. They just weren't equipped for more than a few commando raids. Plus invading southern French coast was problematic as it was Vichy territory, not German.

Yugoslav coup, and German response, would not happen if Germany wasnt so desperate to force Yugoslavia into a pact it wasn't ready for, which was largely reaction to the British forces being in Greece..?
So, a stable Balkan area was possible at no military cost to Germany.

The course of the 1941 U boat war, and British naval blockade of Europe, had no practical effect on the course of Barbarossa in 1941. German was getting hardly any supplies over the Atlantic anyway. More naval interdiction of Scandinavian trade would have hurt, but would be vulnerable to the luftwaffe. And in 1941, British RAF raids were pretty useless, had negligible impact on german production, and only diverted 2 Jagdgeschwaders.

Totally disagree with your claim that there was enough air transport capacity in barbarossa, I've read many accounts of spearheads running out if all supplies, all the time. Yes, there were cases of aerial resupply, but never enough. 50% more Ju52s is a massive boost. And 200 more front line planes very useful too, as the red air force was constantly throwing everything it had at the German attacks, and there are plenty of reports of unopposed red air force attacks, e.g. 3rd Pz div book: To The Gates of Moscow with the 3rd Panzer Division, which I'm reading now, full of days with no Luftwaffe presence to combat active red air force.

And British control of the Iran Iraq area only led to supplies for Russia at the end of 1941, and it started slowly. Plus by Dec 41, Britain had Japan to worry about, big drain on resources.

pugsville
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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by pugsville » 06 Apr 2021 12:47

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 02:09
Sorry, I apologise for bringing up this old favourite, "could Germany beat the soviets"?, but I think I've got a new angle.

Germany Could have done it, if Italy hadn't intervened. The unplanned Italian declaration of war against France and England in june 1940 would by June 1941 cost Germany 4 panzer divisions, 350 Ju52s, a couple of hundred bombers and bf109s, untold supplies, time, occupation troops for the Balkans, and force Germany to fight on 2 extra fronts, African and Balkan.

By joining the war, Italy invited the British to attack in Africa, requiring 2 panzer divisions and 200 odd aircraft from Germany.
By invading the Balkans in Oct 1940, (idiocy, who invades a mountainous country at the start of winter?) and failing so badly, and drawing the British into the region, Germany was forced to invade the Balkans to prevent the British from threatening his southern flank and Ploesti. If Mussolini hadn't invaded, the Balkans remains a perfect neutral barrier that Britain can't attack through, and saves Germany having to try garrisoning an unruleable area.
Instead Germany lost 2 more panzer divs (2nd & 5th) that only rejoined action in October, which was too late. And lost 300 ju52s and their parachute division in Crete. And they list precious time in their build up to Barbarossa.

Hitler needed to bully, threaten (or assassinate) Mussolini to prevent his daft military decisions which robbed Germany of 4 panzer divisions, a full parachute div, 350 Ju52s (Crete lost 300, Africa 50), 200 other front line planes, tons of troops misused in the Balkans, and loads of supplies. With Hitler only facing Britain across the channel, he was free to simply push everything else logistically to the east, and could choose an earlier start date, (though that would probably only gain a few weeks as a May start date now looks impossible due to the flood state of the rivers in the east Poland region.)

The extra 4 panzer divs and the Para div amounts to almost another Panzergroup, something sorely needed in Army groups north or south in summer 41. The extra 350 ju52s adds 50% more airlift capacity exactly when it's needed most, enabling spearheads to be supplied without roads or railways. The troops not occupying the Balkans could help clear the rear areas of bypassed soviet troops and partisans. 200 extra front line planes are always useful. And a start date at the beginning of June..?

It all adds up, I feel, to enough of a difference for the Germans to have captured Moscow before the mud period in October. They would then have been able to settle into strong winter positions, denying the Soviets their Dec 41 counterattack success. This would mean, psychologically, the Soviets only knew defeat, and 1942 would look very different. The loss of Moscow, prestige aside, means a great loss or disruption of manufacturing, population, electricity generation, railway infrastructure and connectivity (Moscow is the physical rail hub, you can't just move it to the Urals.)

Italy staying neutral means Germany can concentrate nearly everything against the Soviets. There were just 2 Jagdgeschwaders of bf 109s, less than 200 planes, facing England after June 1941. In terms of ground troops, it meant just 3rd rate occupation troops were needed on the French coast, as England was in no position to invade in 1941 or 42...
Italy joining the war meant Germany had an extra 2 fronts, an African front, a Balkan front, at exactly the same time that it needed everything for fighting the Soviets, who had been greatly underestimated.

Was Italy the difference between Germany beating Stalin? Discuss please.
It woudl do nothing to improve German logistics. In fact it would make them worse. 10% more tanks is not enough, to change anything important.

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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by historygeek2021 » 07 Apr 2021 17:00

Germany did not come close to beating Russia. That is what all these ATLs miss. Starting a little earlier, having a few more panzer divisions, making a few better decisions, etc. would not have mattered. Russia did not come close to capitulating, and that is what Germany needed in order to have any chance of survival against America and Britain. Germany could have surrounded more armies, taken more cities, pushed farther east, etc. etc., and the USSR would not have capitulated. Germany would have been stuck facing 5-10 million Red Army soldiers in 1942, 1943, 1944 ... all while America and Britain were building up in the west.

Germany could not win WW2. It could not defeat the Soviet Union. There was nothing Germany could have done to win the war.

Max Payload
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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by Max Payload » 09 Apr 2021 11:17

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 11:49

I disagree with you, that Britain could have done ANYTHING in terms of ground warfare in France or southern Europe in 1941. They just weren't equipped for more than a few commando raids. Plus invading southern French coast was problematic as it was Vichy territory, not German.
Agreed, but how much of that was Hitler aware of in 1941? What additional precautions would he have needed to take to feel secure in the West?

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 11:49
Yugoslav coup, and German response, would not happen if Germany wasnt so desperate to force Yugoslavia into a pact it wasn't ready for ...

The course of the 1941 U boat war, and British naval blockade of Europe, had no practical effect on the course of Barbarossa in 1941. German was getting hardly any supplies over the Atlantic anyway. More naval interdiction of Scandinavian trade would have hurt, but would be vulnerable to the luftwaffe. And in 1941, British RAF raids were pretty useless, had negligible impact on german production, and only diverted 2 Jagdgeschwaders.
Could Hitler really have contemplated a deep thrust into Russia with a potentially vulnerable southern flank in the Balkans? He would have needed an assurance that Germany would not be vulnerable from the south as it advanced east - a pact with Yugoslavia for example.

The more resources the British put into naval and air operations in the twelve months before Barbarossa, the more Germany would have been compelled to respond.

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 11:49
Totally disagree with your claim that there was enough air transport capacity in barbarossa, I've read many accounts of spearheads running out if all supplies, all the time. Yes, there were cases of aerial resupply, but never enough. 50% more Ju52s is a massive boost. And 200 more front line planes very useful too, as the red air force was constantly throwing everything it had at the German attacks, and there are plenty of reports of unopposed red air force attacks, e.g. 3rd Pz div book: To The Gates of Moscow with the 3rd Panzer Division, which I'm reading now, full of days with no Luftwaffe presence to combat active red air force.
Operations in Russia required more than 30,000 tons of supplies per day (crude calculation based on an individual’s needs being between 2.5 and 25 kg/d depending on the activity being engaged in). A Ju 52 could deliver 3 tons - enough to keep a panzer division that was engaged in heavy offensive operations supplied for 15 minutes. An extra 200 machines operating over a 1,500km frontline could only have made a difference at the margin of the wider campaign. They were slow, lightly armed and very vulnerable to interdiction and ground fire. More than 200 were shot down over a ten-week period in the Stalingrad battle alone. No doubt there may have occasions in 1941 where their presence may have allowed operations in specific localities to progress further than they did, but I doubt that many would have been left in November to have made a difference at Moscow.

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 11:49
... by Dec 41, Britain had Japan to worry about, big drain on resources.
But in the absence of combat in NA they would have had an additional four divisions and two brigades (infantry), plus an armoured division and two armoured brigades to deal with it.

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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by Wat Tyler » 09 Apr 2021 11:49

bam wrote:
06 Apr 2021 02:09
Hitler needed to bully, threaten (or assassinate) Mussolini to prevent his daft military decisions which robbed Germany of 4 panzer divisions, a full parachute div, 350 Ju52s (Crete lost 300, Africa 50), 200 other front line planes, tons of troops misused in the Balkans, and loads of supplies. With Hitler only facing Britain across the channel, he was free to simply push everything else logistically to the east,
How do the Italians respond in your scenario? Could it push them into the allied camp? They fought against the central powers a little over twenty years previously after all. If they did move towards the allies that would give Hitler an opponent on his borders and potentially give British access to southern europe without having to stage any sort of landing or invasion. How many of the "saved" German troops , planes and tanks would be allocated to protect the border with italy?

bam
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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by bam » 09 Apr 2021 20:38

Good question, what Italy does in my scenario I don't know...before 1939, Mussolini thought of himself as the chief fascist, Hitler was the newcomer. So how you get il duce to sit tight is problematic, hence maybe best to just secretly poison him quietly and let the Italian royalists retake power. Long shot though.

As for historygeek assertion that Stalin never came close to capitulation, well we now know uncle Joe sent representatives to have a conversation with the Bulgarians about what price Hitler wanted for a peace treaty in Oct 41, I think it was. So Stalin was nt sure he was gonna win.

And historygeek, I agree Germany can not win against america+ Britain, Germany can't win ww2. But I wonder if there were ways they could've beaten the Soviets, or degraded them enough by end of 1942, to get a treaty, to force Stalin out, or just a stalemate on a line east of moscow/Volga. Would the soviet regime have been able to keep fighting on that sort of front line, after losing Moscow (and probably Leningrad too), losing the majority of its population & food production & oil & railway infrastructure. It's hard to keep fighting without victories, soldier morale is important. I've read soviet memoir accounts that state it was only after stalingrad that the mood changed, soldiers really believed in victory, and desertion dramatically decreased. Ok, you've got factories behind the Urals churning out guns and tanks, but you need to convince your people you will win, and that factor is often missed in this argument.

By having no distractions in Africa and the balkans, Germany could concentrate all its tanks, mechanized troops, the best of its whermacht and most of its luftwaffe on just one ground front, in Russia, and could the Soviets have survived long enough for the Americans to start making a difference in 1943? Would it really matter if a remnant soviet army was holding out around the Urals?

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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by historygeek2021 » 09 Apr 2021 21:07

bam wrote:
09 Apr 2021 20:38


As for historygeek assertion that Stalin never came close to capitulation, well we now know uncle Joe sent representatives to have a conversation with the Bulgarians about what price Hitler wanted for a peace treaty in Oct 41, I think it was. So Stalin was nt sure he was gonna win.
All we know is that at some point in July or October (sources differ), Beria sent an agent to meet a Bulgarian representative to see if Bulgaria could find out peace terms from Germany. Nothing came of it. There is no record of Bulgaria even passing on the request. That hardly constitutes evidence that the USSR would have capitulated.
And historygeek, I agree Germany can not win against america+ Britain, Germany can't win ww2. But I wonder if there were ways they could've beaten the Soviets, or degraded them enough by end of 1942, to get a treaty, to force Stalin out, or just a stalemate on a line east of moscow/Volga. Would the soviet regime have been able to keep fighting on that sort of front line, after losing Moscow (and probably Leningrad too), losing the majority of its population & food production & oil & railway infrastructure. It's hard to keep fighting without victories, soldier morale is important. I've read soviet memoir accounts that state it was only after stalingrad that the mood changed, soldiers really believed in victory, and desertion dramatically decreased. Ok, you've got factories behind the Urals churning out guns and tanks, but you need to convince your people you will win, and that factor is often missed in this argument.

By having no distractions in Africa and the balkans, Germany could concentrate all its tanks, mechanized troops, the best of its whermacht and most of its luftwaffe on just one ground front, in Russia, and could the Soviets have survived long enough for the Americans to start making a difference in 1943? Would it really matter if a remnant soviet army was holding out around the Urals?
What this misses is that Germany did not come close in the OTL. Germany tried to take Leningrad and Moscow in the OTL and failed. It had no other major land commitments and still failed. There was only 1 army doing garrison duty in the Balkans and 2 divisions in North Africa, and 2 were rehabilitating after the Balkans campaign. 1 more infantry army and 4 more motorized divisions would not have accomplished anything meaningful enough to seriously weaken the USSR.

But say the Germans take Leningrad, and Moscow, and Rostov in 1941. They are still facing 10 million Red Army soldiers in 1942. And the number of Red Army soldiers will keep on growing in 1943 and 1944 and 1945, just as the number of Allied bombers and divisions grows in the west. What can Germany do in 1942, just because it holds Leningrad and Moscow and Rostov? It can push a little further into the Caucasus than the OTL and maybe occupy Stalingrad. But then Germany still does not have enough manpower to cover the entire front. The Red Army still counterattacks in 1942, and the overstretched German armies get cut off and destroyed.

Ok, but say Germany does really really well in 1941 and the Soviet Union is seriously weakened. So now in 1942 the Red Army has ... 8 million instead of 10 million soldiers? Or 6 million? Germany still needs to deploy 2.5 million soldiers to the eastern front, and the Red Army's ranks will keep growing. Say Germany reaches the AA line in 1942 - Germany still needs to deploy 2 million + soldiers to the eastern front in 1943 and 1944 and 1945.

Meanwhile, without the Afrika Corps, North Africa falls to the British in 1941. Without the North African theater, Britain has no land commitments anywhere. It can do more raids along the French coast, it can threaten to invade Norway. It can improve its situation in the Pacific so that Singapore doesn't fall to the Japanese, or maybe the Japanese are too afraid to attack at all because the British Empire is unconstrained by a ground war against Nazi Germany. America will still enter the war in 1942, and Germany won't be able to commit enough troops in the west because it needs to deploy 2 million+ against Russia every year. No matter how well Germany does, it is still surrounded on all sides by a coalition of countries whose industrial output and manpower far exceeds its own. Germany still loses the sea war and the air war and little by little the Allies chip away at its perimeter until Germany is too weak to defend itself at all.

KDF33
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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by KDF33 » 09 Apr 2021 23:47

historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
What this misses is that Germany did not come close in the OTL.
I'd say by early May 1942, the Germans were more likely than the Soviets to win the war in the East.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
Germany tried to take Leningrad and Moscow in the OTL and failed. It had no other major land commitments and still failed. There was only 1 army doing garrison duty in the Balkans and 2 divisions in North Africa, and 2 were rehabilitating after the Balkans campaign. 1 more infantry army and 4 more motorized divisions would not have accomplished anything meaningful enough to seriously weaken the USSR.
Although Barbarossa obviously failed to achieve its (vastly over-optimistic) objective, it did seriously weaken the USSR. That said, I do agree that a few extra divisions wouldn't have made much of a difference, unless they could be employed in a way that would have a strategic impact, especially early on. Forum member TheMarcksPlan has an interesting ATL about this.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
But say the Germans take Leningrad, and Moscow, and Rostov in 1941. They are still facing 10 million Red Army soldiers in 1942.
Are you referring to the entire Soviet military establishment? Because at the front, the Germans hardly faced 10 million men in 1942. They faced ~4.25 million in January - March, rising to ~5.5 million in May - September, and finally ~6.3 million at the time of the winter counter-offensive.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
And the number of Red Army soldiers will keep on growing in 1943 and 1944 and 1945
Soviet numbers didn't grow steadily in 1943-5, though. They rose in spring 1943, during a period of limited fighting, and both their overall strength and strength at the front peaked in July. Thereafter strength see-sawed at a generally lower level until the end of the war.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
What can Germany do in 1942, just because it holds Leningrad and Moscow and Rostov?
Destroy the Soviets in detail. Although holding the aforementioned cities wouldn't have been necessary for that strategy to work.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
It can push a little further into the Caucasus than the OTL and maybe occupy Stalingrad. But then Germany still does not have enough manpower to cover the entire front. The Red Army still counterattacks in 1942, and the overstretched German armies get cut off and destroyed.
Given how Blau was one of the worst strategic concepts of the war, IMO saving the USSR from disaster, I'd say the Germans just have to avoid (quite literally) going down that route. Now if they still do, then yes, there's a fair likelihood that events play out similarly to what did in fact happen, whatever additional cities they might capture or not in 1941.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
Ok, but say Germany does really really well in 1941 and the Soviet Union is seriously weakened. So now in 1942 the Red Army has ... 8 million instead of 10 million soldiers? Or 6 million? Germany still needs to deploy 2.5 million soldiers to the eastern front
Well, assuming we are talking about overall force structure, if the Soviets have ~8 million men in mid-1942 rather than ~10 million, then even as faulty an operation as Blau is likely to succeed. If the Soviets are down to ~6 million, then the Kwantung Army must be leisurely advancing along the Trans-Siberian.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
and the Red Army's ranks will keep growing.
Why? How?
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
Say Germany reaches the AA line in 1942 - Germany still needs to deploy 2 million + soldiers to the eastern front in 1943 and 1944 and 1945.
Why?
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
Meanwhile, without the Afrika Corps[...]
For most of this paragraph, I agree. I don't think losing Italy as an ally would have helped the Germans.
historygeek2021 wrote:
09 Apr 2021 21:07
America will still enter the war in 1942, and Germany won't be able to commit enough troops in the west because it needs to deploy 2 million+ against Russia every year. No matter how well Germany does, it is still surrounded on all sides by a coalition of countries whose industrial output and manpower far exceeds its own. Germany still loses the sea war and the air war and little by little the Allies chip away at its perimeter until Germany is too weak to defend itself at all.
If the USSR goes under, that's IMO questionable. If the ensuing conflict lasts until July 1945, though, then the U.S. can obviously deploy the ultimate trump card.

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Re: Germany could win Barbarossa by suppressing Italy

Post by bam » 10 Apr 2021 00:31

The soviet armies were able to restock their manpower in 1943-5 because they reconquered lost territory and immediately enlisted every male they found into the army, trained or not. And recruited the partisans and cut off soldiers that were in western ussr. If the Soviets were stuck around the AA line, or between there and Moscow, their manpower pool is greatly reduced from the actual position they had in 1943/4. They couldn't have sustained their western army at 6 million (it was never 10 mil, or 8 even..)

The red army was consciously trying to lessen infantry losses in 1944/5, by substituting massed armour and artillery, due to the horrendous losses of males aged 18-50. They were stretched for infantry, divisions were often continyally about 50% fully manned....they did not have endless manpower, even with the influx of reconquered territory which returned about a third of USSR prewar population to soviet control
.
maybe the Japanese are too afraid to attack at all because the British Empire is unconstrained by a ground war against Nazi Germany
Well that just helps Germany even more. Keeping Japan out of the war altogether, or keeping them away from the British, makes it hard for USA to join war against germany. Politically, there was no U.S. appetite fir another war with germany, and until hitler gifted them the solution by unilaterally declaring war, Roosevelt was unsure how to get the USA to fight Germany.

In all of this, it's worth remembering that Britain and the US didn't start to hurt Germany much before 1943, if you exclude Africa and the Med, which are excluded in a no-italy scenario. A few British coastal raids on France is not going to make any difference to 150 German divisions in the east. And as for invading Norway...good luck. I can't think of a worse place to try and fight....no roads, lots of mountains, foul weather...jyst a few gebirgs divs could tie you down for months or years.
Meanwhile, without the Afrika Corps, North Africa falls to the British in 1941.
No...without Italy fighting Britain, there's no African war. Britain is stuck in Egypt, blocked from the balkans by neutral states, and facing southern France which is Vichy territory. North Africa doesn't fall to the British, unless they want to declare war on France, and how would they physically get to Algeria & Tunisia, as Libya stays neutral with Italy anyway?

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