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Thread: Why did the Italians lose?

  1. #106
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    Churchill did not have the manpower nor equipment to really defend Greece against the combined German, Bulgarian (although despite German 'requests' did not participate with troops in the actual invasions) and Italian forces - but politically he was required to do something.

    Greece was wavering with support for the Axis as opposed to the Allies, with intervention it sort of forced Greeces hand, as a result large numbers of Axis men and equipment (far more than the allies lost) was tied down for the duration. The Greek merchant fleet had 638 ships totalling 1.9 million GRT (most of which was cargo ships 607). It had the third largest merchant fleet in 1939. If Greece went to the Axis camp that fleet plus the Greek Navy (although the major units were quite old) could or would be available to the Axis. This was during the first U Boat 'Happy Time' as well so an important consideration for Churchill with the loss of so many British merchant ships.

    With Italy's beligerancy Greece was not going to stay Neutral, Germany would deal with it either by forcing it to join the Axis forces in some way (much like Bulgaria) or invade anyway. The Balkans had a large Soviet/Russian sympathy (Yugolasvian republics particularly) so would need to be neutralised and that would include Greece.

    There is still a debate about the reason for the delay in attacking the USSR - the reserves for Barbarossa (who were to take no part in the initial stages) outnumbered the troops sent to Greece (although they were not the best forces), the Rasputitsa lasted much longer than usual, during the first week of June the Polish and Russian river valleys were still flooded and impassable to the invading forces. So at most a week to two weeks (which is what actually happened) would have been the delay. By the time the Germans got to Moscow the forces were suffering from exhaustion and lack of man power, units being a shell of their former selves - much like the myth of Dunkirk - the Germans were stopped because they could not go further, but it is much better to blame some other force or nature rather than that the German army had fought itself to a standstill.

    The intervention in Greece also continued Churchills theme (which he was desperate to prove to the US mostly), that wherever was threatened by the Axis he would resist, no matter the cost. This helped (along with payments and supplies) to keep other nations out of direct action (Spain and Turkey for instance).

    With hindsight I can still say he had a hard call to make, Commonwealth and allied nations in North Africa was desperately short of equipment, supplies and the troops and equipment they did have were tired or worn out (high in moral though). Those troops and equipment sent may have been enough to push the Italians completely out of North Africa - although I doubt it before the Germans intervened, they may have been enough to resist the Axis advance though.

    Chances are though the Greek merchant fleet would not have sailed to join the Allies (75% of the Greek freighters were sunk in WW2 by the Axis), or at least would not have joined in early on, during the most desperate days.

    Hindsight and/or looking at a single action without looking at what Churchill could see of the bigger picture (including knowing that Germany was going to attack the Soviet Union in 1941) can lead to conclusions that may not be in tune with what was known and thought at the time. Its very difficult to look back and ignore hindsight and to limit a view to just that action.

    .....

    Churchill with hindsight made some huge blunders, some which are considered blunders if taken in the wider context can be considered otherwise. He also did many great things and was possibly the only leader in Britain who would have kept Britain in the war against the Axis (the make peace lobby was quite strong in parliament at the time).
    Excellent summary, and puts Churchill's decision in full context, which I confess I'd ignored in looking at British Commonwealth action in Greece in 1941 in isolation from the other factors you mention and which bore on Churchill's decision.

    Very good and important point about the Greek ships, which is reminiscent of the British concerns about the French fleet about a year before and which, following French refusal to bring the ships over to the British or to sail to a neutral country led Churchill to order the attack on the French fleet at Mers el Kebir to prevent them being used by the Axis powers, despite French Navy assurances that this wouldn't happen. Also reminiscent in a different way of the significant impact and benefit to the Allies of the Dutch Navy and merchant ships which escaped the Japanese, with the merchant ships being a major contributor to MacArthur's campaigns in the critical early years and the Dutch Navy ships and especially submarines making a solid contribution to Allied naval operations.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  2. #107
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    Much like the Dardeneles in WW1, Churchill gets all the blame but his initial idea was to force the straights with an Anglo/French naval force carry troops direct to the capital - which (unknown to the Allies) almost succeded. The seaborne landings was not part of his original idea, Generals on the ground tend to get less blame for their failures to advance on day one.
    Not something I've studied, but recently I heard a radio interview with Mark Baker, the author of this book https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse...-9781760111656 and who seems to have studied the Dardanelles sea and land campaigns closely and for many years, where he mentioned that the Turks probably would have failed successfully to resist a second RN attempt to force the Dardanelles soon after the first attempt. He seemed to support Schuler's contemporary view that if the Allies had persisted with the land campaign in 1915 they would have succeeded, but that other journalists prevailed in influencing the decision to abandon Gallipoli. His assessment of the journalists' views and actions and how they have subsequently influenced popular understanding, and factual misunderstandings of the Gallipoli campaign and the major actors, especially in Australia, is covered in this extract from his book: http://www.smh.com.au/national/ruper...07-gpe0ld.html
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  3. #108
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    Regarding the Dardanelles - there is evidence that the Turks were breaking under British/Commonwealth attack, in part, due to the limited skills of their earnest but less than competent junior officers. One must allow for myth-making, but it does appear that they were rallied by Mustapha Kemal and other middle-ranking officers and sundry German "advisers", and just held. Whether they would have held off a further Allied attack must remain a matter for speculation.

    As to the Greek campaign - a very chilly military appreciation would have placed Greece at the time as "threatened/lost territory the recapture of which would not have been justified by reference to a balance of advantage against cost. This would have been a strategic version of a doctrine developed at tactical level by the Germans in mid-WW1. But - like Hitler's decision to intervene in the Balkans to support his Italian allies - this is not a matter that can be assessed without regard to political considerations. Best regards, JR.

  4. #109
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    This is all true as far as it goes. Japan played on the theme of getting the white man out of Asia and it was effective. Initially, at least. The only trouble with this is that Japan didn't give a damn about Asians other than themselves, They were going to be the new colonial masters. Their idea was to replace European colonialism with Japanese colonialism. It was "bait and switch" on a grand and cynical scale. The Filipinos saw through this from the beginning and it infuriated the Japanese. Filipino guerrillas operated in many places throughout the duration of the Japanese occupation.

  5. #110
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    The Japanese tended to be far worse to their Asian "brothers" than did the European whites. Those unfortunate enough to fall under Japanese control found that soon enough. One of the great ironies is that when the IJA took Hong Kong, they often (but not always) attempted to protect the interned British and other non-Asians while battering the Chinese population and making Asian organized crime gangs their nominal allies in an occupation puppet gov't...

  6. #111
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    Default Re: Why did the Italians lose?

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    This is all true as far as it goes. Japan played on the theme of getting the white man out of Asia and it was effective. Initially, at least.
    Not only initially, but ultimately.

    Japan's failed war southwards provided the groundwork for the post-war anti-colonialist successes all over South East Asia by removing the former European colonial powers for the duration and leaving a bit of a vacuum post-war.

    If Japan had confined its expansionism to China, there is a fair chance that the post-WWII map from India to the Pacific would have remained as it was pre-war for many more decades. And that this might have seen less success in anti-colonialist movements in Africa, not least because the continuation of European colonialism in Asia would have legitimised continuation of colonialism in Africa, as well as allowing some European powers to avoid dilution of their military forces by trying to retain power in Asia, notably the French in Indo-China culminating in Dien Bien Phu.

    Quote Originally Posted by royal744 View Post
    The only trouble with this is that Japan didn't give a damn about Asians other than themselves, They were going to be the new colonial masters. Their idea was to replace European colonialism with Japanese colonialism.
    True, but it is also the case that the Japanese were just doing on a vastly more aggressive and brutal, and monumentally clumsy and stupid, scale what the main European powers had been doing for the previous few centuries in Asia, notably the British and Dutch, and to a lesser extent the Portuguese, for the previous few centuries and more recently most of the major European powers as well as the US in carving up China for their own benefit.

    If one contrasts, say, the British ways of gaining and maintaining control of India through forging alliances with local rulers (not unlike the ancient Romans doing much the same) with Japan's remorselessly brutal conduct in China, it becomes clear that Japan was operating on a much less sophisticated level, which is consistent with the contemporary Japanese idiocy of 'spirit' being able to overcome all, including America's vastly greater industrial capacity and the development of superior weapons and various tactical and strategic successes by the Allies.

    I'm not putting this forward as an excuse for Japan's conduct but as an explanation: Simply put, compared with the Allies (but not necessarily Chinese forces and especially Chinese Nationalist forces) Japan was operating on a more primitive level than its enemies which freed Japan of the constraints largely observed by its enemies up to Pearl Harbor and in the conduct of subsequent warfare. This flowed from Japanese history, culture and society as modified to some extent by the supposed 'militarists' who supposedly took Japan to war in China and later southwards, although in reality Emperor Hirohito either acquiesced in or was the driving force behind Japan's aggression but this was concealed and misrepresented after the war by MacArthur and his cabal with the active co-operation for their own purposes (essentially to preserve the Emperor and the imperial house and the various fictions that supposedly surrounded it in Japanese society) of Hirohito and his cabal.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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