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Old 09-18-2009, 11:17 AM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
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When I was war gaming this theater from the Axis side some 40 years ago my forces first destroyed the Allied air in Malta with round the clock cluster bomb attacks and followed up with a combined air and sea invasion. Then we took the Balearics followed by a Spanish land blockade and Axis, mostly Italian, naval bombardment of Gibraltar. By operating out of morocco, and eventually, the Rock, our submarine fleet isolated the Med from the Atlantic. We then sunk enough allied shipping in the Suez Canal to stop that flow of supplies.

Mare Nostrum, indeed.

Yes, the failure to take Malta was a major mistake for the Axis.
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Old 09-18-2009, 11:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Well, those are good points. My response is that Hitler never had Hellenic aspirations to begin with. He only invaded Greece to bail out Mussolini and evacuated the country in 1944 without a shot. So really Greece, and by extension Crete, held no strategic value to Germany at all.
Exactly right. But Churchill was obsessed by the Mediterranean.
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Old 09-18-2009, 11:26 AM
 
Location: BOY-see
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Well, those are good points. My response is that Hitler never had Hellenic aspirations to begin with. He only invaded Greece to bail out Mussolini and evacuated the country in 1944 without a shot. So really Greece, and by extension Crete, held no strategic value to Germany at all.
The former does not prove the latter. It is true that Hitler would far rather have never had a Greek adventure. He ended up with one anyway, and it meant that any Greek territory he didn't occupy would be occupied by the Allies, which might cause him gods only knew what kind of trouble. He evacuated the country in autumn 1944 when it was apparent that a) the Allies no longer needed a beachhead on the Mediterranean front, b) the Soviets were likely to cut off a substantial occupation force in Greece that was needed for other purposes, and c) Romania had just switched sides, making the defense of Ploesti no longer a factor. Greece's strategic value to Hitler, when it was thrust on him, rested in its denial to the Allies--itself a form of strategic value.
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Old 09-18-2009, 01:01 PM
 
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Do not think the failure to take Malta was a downfall for the Axis. Seems they were more interested on trying to conquer Northern Africa which bordered the Mediterranean. What good would it do to have Malta if they lost control of Africas long Northern coast line which was on the Mediterranean.

Did find out that the Axis attacked Malta for 157 days via bombers. The fortresses withheld the siege. Seems since Malta has always been sought by others that they made sure over the centures via architecture designs to make fortresses that could stand a long siege.

And the Axis even though they did not have Malta they did have the strategic Italian island of Pantelleria to the NorthWest of Malta. The Italians claimed this island was an impregnable fortress.

Map:

Quote:
During the Second World War, Pantelleria’s key strategic position right in the middle of the Canale di Sicilia separating North Africa from Italy, earned it the attentions of the Fascist government, who began to fortify the place. As a result, it was subjected to systematic bombing raids in 1943 by the Allies based on the Tunisian coast.
The Italians also controlled three small Italian islands that were closer to Malta called the Pelagie islands.

See Map: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...slands_map.png

This on the Allies battle for Pantelleria and the Pelagie islands.
Battle of Pantelleria and Pelagie Islands | World War II Database
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Old 09-18-2009, 01:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by j_k_k View Post
The former does not prove the latter. It is true that Hitler would far rather have never had a Greek adventure. He ended up with one anyway, and it meant that any Greek territory he didn't occupy would be occupied by the Allies, which might cause him gods only knew what kind of trouble. He evacuated the country in autumn 1944 when it was apparent that a) the Allies no longer needed a beachhead on the Mediterranean front, b) the Soviets were likely to cut off a substantial occupation force in Greece that was needed for other purposes, and c) Romania had just switched sides, making the defense of Ploesti no longer a factor. Greece's strategic value to Hitler, when it was thrust on him, rested in its denial to the Allies--itself a form of strategic value.
Actually, I think it does. Hitler's commitment to Greece was, at best, half-hearted. The Balkans simply did not figure into his overall strategy. In fact, he was highly concerned that the German's operations in Yugoslavia and Greece would take away personnel from the imminent invasion of Russia. So given that Greece was not central to Germany's war plan and was, in fact, an unplanned operation, then it's really hard to argue that Crete was a strategic objective when Greece itself was not.
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Old 09-18-2009, 03:16 PM
 
Location: BOY-see
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Actually, I think it does. Hitler's commitment to Greece was, at best, half-hearted. The Balkans simply did not figure into his overall strategy. In fact, he was highly concerned that the German's operations in Yugoslavia and Greece would take away personnel from the imminent invasion of Russia. So given that Greece was not central to Germany's war plan and was, in fact, an unplanned operation, then it's really hard to argue that Crete was a strategic objective when Greece itself was not.
Hitler didn't originally want any can of worms opened in Greece or Yugoslavia. But once he opened the Yugoslav one, the Greek one was opened for him even farther than Italy had already done. If Greece were not strategic, why bother to crush and occupy it? Once it was into the war, it was certainly strategic, if for no other reasons than the geopolitical influence on Turkey (which still might swing either direction) and the potential reach of Ploesti. Were it not strategic, he would have abandoned it much sooner and found better uses for the troops. He did not do this. He didn't even abandon Crete, not until the general bugout.

What I think you mean to say is that Hitler never wanted a Greek entanglement, for it gained him little for the cost. Certainly true (Greece is not exactly lavishly endowed with mineral resources)--but that is a different statement than that Hitler had no strategic interest in Greece. That you cannot support, for the minute Hitler's ally Mussolini launched his ill-fated invasion of Greece, Greece began to impact Hitler's strategic interests in ways he never desired. As before, #1 does not prove #2.
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Old 09-18-2009, 03:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by j_k_k View Post
Hitler didn't originally want any can of worms opened in Greece or Yugoslavia. But once he opened the Yugoslav one, the Greek one was opened for him even farther than Italy had already done. If Greece were not strategic, why bother to crush and occupy it? Once it was into the war, it was certainly strategic, if for no other reasons than the geopolitical influence on Turkey (which still might swing either direction) and the potential reach of Ploesti. Were it not strategic, he would have abandoned it much sooner and found better uses for the troops. He did not do this. He didn't even abandon Crete, not until the general bugout.

What I think you mean to say is that Hitler never wanted a Greek entanglement, for it gained him little for the cost. Certainly true (Greece is not exactly lavishly endowed with mineral resources)--but that is a different statement than that Hitler had no strategic interest in Greece. That you cannot support, for the minute Hitler's ally Mussolini launched his ill-fated invasion of Greece, Greece began to impact Hitler's strategic interests in ways he never desired. As before, #1 does not prove #2.
Actually, yes it does. For Mussolini invaded Greece without Hitler's blessing, and an Italian failure would constitute a disaster for German war planning, particularly with the Russian campaign looming. Had there not been an Italian invasion of Greece, there would not have been a subsequent German intervention to rescue its ally. And, of course, no airborne invasion of Crete.

A strategic objective is one that is considered essential to the war aims of a country, whether it is an oil field, a narrow body of water through which supplies must be shipped, or a key chokepoint through which invading troops must plunge. In no way, shape, or form was Greece (And by extension, Crete) a strategic objective for Germany. In fact, Greece was a strategic liability for German involving large numbers of occupying troops that would have been better used elsewhere. Unless, of course, you count artifacts of the Cretan civilization for the supernatural powers they could provide Der Fuhrer.

Last edited by cpg35223; 09-18-2009 at 04:11 PM..
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Old 09-18-2009, 05:34 PM
 
Location: BOY-see
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Actually, yes it does. For Mussolini invaded Greece without Hitler's blessing, and an Italian failure would constitute a disaster for German war planning, particularly with the Russian campaign looming. Had there not been an Italian invasion of Greece, there would not have been a subsequent German intervention to rescue its ally. And, of course, no airborne invasion of Crete.

A strategic objective is one that is considered essential to the war aims of a country, whether it is an oil field, a narrow body of water through which supplies must be shipped, or a key chokepoint through which invading troops must plunge. In no way, shape, or form was Greece (And by extension, Crete) a strategic objective for Germany. In fact, Greece was a strategic liability for German involving large numbers of occupying troops that would have been better used elsewhere. Unless, of course, you count artifacts of the Cretan civilization for the supernatural powers they could provide Der Fuhrer.
Okay. Let's roll it that direction. Suppose, confronted with the Greek reality as created by Mussolini, Hitler had simply declined to invade Greece. He could have. What then? Would it not have become such a thorn in his side he would eventually have to invade? I do not see how you can continue to defend the premise that Greece became a necessity for Hitler to take and hold. That Hitler never originally wanted an entanglement in Greece is true, but became moot the moment Mussolini's forces started falling back into Albania. The strategic reality can change through the course of a conflict. I am not taking the position that Greece was strategic for Hitler on 1/1/39.

But the key question there is italicized because that's the one I most wish an answer to. Suppose Hitler leaves Greece alone, it being enmeshed in war with Italy. What occurs? More specifically, how does it fail to become an even greater goathead in his foot than it actually became when he occupied it? I envision the British helping eject Mussolini from Albania, absent German assistance. I envision constant and irritating (from Adolf's standpoint) help to the Yugoslav resistance. I envision Hitler eventually forced to occupy Greece even if not a single RAF bomber heads for Ploesti. I cannot see a scenario in which Hitler could or would tolerate that, making the occupation of Greece a strategic necessity--essential to German war aims, if you like--if only to deny it to the Allies.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by j_k_k View Post
Okay. Let's roll it that direction. Suppose, confronted with the Greek reality as created by Mussolini, Hitler had simply declined to invade Greece. He could have. What then? Would it not have become such a thorn in his side he would eventually have to invade? I do not see how you can continue to defend the premise that Greece became a necessity for Hitler to take and hold. That Hitler never originally wanted an entanglement in Greece is true, but became moot the moment Mussolini's forces started falling back into Albania. The strategic reality can change through the course of a conflict. I am not taking the position that Greece was strategic for Hitler on 1/1/39.

But the key question there is italicized because that's the one I most wish an answer to. Suppose Hitler leaves Greece alone, it being enmeshed in war with Italy. What occurs? More specifically, how does it fail to become an even greater goathead in his foot than it actually became when he occupied it? I envision the British helping eject Mussolini from Albania, absent German assistance. I envision constant and irritating (from Adolf's standpoint) help to the Yugoslav resistance. I envision Hitler eventually forced to occupy Greece even if not a single RAF bomber heads for Ploesti. I cannot see a scenario in which Hitler could or would tolerate that, making the occupation of Greece a strategic necessity--essential to German war aims, if you like--if only to deny it to the Allies.
Okay, suppose Hitler said, "Fine, Benito, you made your bed. Now lie in it." Well, that was really not an option, because Italy and Germany were already embroiled in North Africa, and anything that drains away the Italians considerable land, air, and seapower from the theater lessens the Axis odds of achieving a true strategic objective: The Suez Canal.

Instead, because occupying a country involves much less manpower than fighting it, German was forced to intervene with an towards eventually having more troops to put into the North Africa theater. What's more, once Italy expanded the fight to Greece, it simply couldn't withdraw back into Albania for the British would have moved into the resulting power vacuum in Greece. After all, it's highly unlikely that Greece would have remained neutral in the remaining conflict. It would have given the Brits a much closer operational base to deal with Southern Italy, thereby making the interdiction of Afrika Korps resupply much more difficult. So the Germans eventually were forced to deny what would have been a valuable objective to the British, but one that to them wasn't very important at all.

That being said, Greece itself, with its mountainous terrain and treacherous coastline would have proven extraordinarily easy to defend from any Allied invasion, much more so than even Italy, even if the British retained bases in Crete. There is simply nothing about the island that was strategic in nature.
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Old 09-21-2009, 02:11 PM
 
Location: BOY-see
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Instead, because occupying a country involves much less manpower than fighting it, German was forced to intervene with an towards eventually having more troops to put into the North Africa theater. What's more, once Italy expanded the fight to Greece, it simply couldn't withdraw back into Albania for the British would have moved into the resulting power vacuum in Greece. After all, it's highly unlikely that Greece would have remained neutral in the remaining conflict. It would have given the Brits a much closer operational base to deal with Southern Italy, thereby making the interdiction of Afrika Korps resupply much more difficult. So the Germans eventually were forced to deny what would have been a valuable objective to the British, but one that to them wasn't very important at all.
Which made Greece strategic, given the situation as it developed and obtained. Its denial to the Allies was the part that was strategic. Oh, how infuriated Adolf must have been when he found out Mussolini opened up that particular Pandora's Box.

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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
That being said, Greece itself, with its mountainous terrain and treacherous coastline would have proven extraordinarily easy to defend from any Allied invasion, much more so than even Italy, even if the British retained bases in Crete. There is simply nothing about the island that was strategic in nature.
The last sentence is quite incorrect. Anything that made it more feasible to pound Ploesti--one of the strategic bombing targets most worth hitting on German-controlled soil--was by definition strategic. Crete was like Greece: useless to Germany in and of itself, but essential to deny to the Allies and secure the Balkan flank.

As for the invadability of Greece, even if you consider the Gulf of Corinth and north Ionian coast strategically inaccessible to invasion due to the high probability of devastating aero-naval interdiction, it's worth pointing out that not only do the Peloponnese have a lot of beaches and small coastal ports to garrison and defend, but the basic terrain of the Peloponnese that makes it defensible also makes lateral reinforcement difficult, especially for armor--normally the force expected to react fastest to crush a WWII amphibious landing.

If Crete is held instead of lost by the Allies, staging becomes an order of magnitude easier (and therefore, a larger Axis garrison is needed). None of the other Aegean islands are safe from raids, even invasions. What is more, the sword of the narrow isthmus at Corinth cuts both ways. Land near there (perhaps at Nafplion) and cut it off, and not only is that bottleneck highly defensible, but every Axis unit in the Peloponnese is now trapped and likely in serious trouble from an energized partisan movement that smells liberation. The only way out is at Patra (in those days, I believe by ferry or other sea transport) or some other path across the Gulf of Corinth. If the garrison is Bulgarian or Italian, perhaps it isn't even highly motivated to resist much.

The crux of our differing interpretations seems to be (if I understand your position correctly) that you don't consider something strategic unless there's something there to want, or a path to somewhere there's something to want. I consider something strategic if there's something there the enemy wants that I can deny him, even if it's not much direct use to me. And if that secures a flank and makes it easier to go about my other wartime business, I consider that strategic. If our definitions were matched against one another's in a grand strategic WWII strategy game, I have to say that I like my odds. (Too bad we probably don't live close enough to put this to a real test--it would be intriguing.)
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