Wi earlier D-DAY


What the earliest that a D-DAY invasion could be attempted and would it be as successful as D-DAY in OTL or would it fail?
The original plan was May 1, 1944. I don't think it would be possible to get the necessary troop buildup in Britain before then.
It would if the Allies put off or scaled down the invasion of Italy, or if they won the Battle of the Atlantic earlier. Alternatively, they could launch a scaled-down version like the initial plans - but that would very likely have been defeated.
Roundup/Sledgehammer in 1943
There wasn't an Atlantic Wall, just the Channels Islands had any real defenses at this point

It would be as successful as D-Day, as the Germans would be unable to dislodge even the underequipped British and US Troops, being so busy in Russia.
Less successful in the future, as the Breakout would take much longer, and France would be wrecked far more with fighting
Roundup/Sledgehammer in 1943
There wasn't an Atlantic Wall, just the Channels Islands had any real defenses at this point

It would be as successful as D-Day, as the Germans would be unable to dislodge even the underequipped British and US Troops, being so busy in Russia.
Less successful in the future, as the Breakout would take much longer, and France would be wrecked far more with fighting
I'm not so sure of that. The Luftwaffe was still a force to be reckoned with in early 1943, the Eighth Airforce just wasn't ready to have a Big Week in 1943 they simply had insufficient strength and experience to to pull it off, Ninth Airforce was also still building up and they had to be fully up if the transportation and oil plans were going to be instituted both of which had to be put into play for a successful campaign. There was also a shortage of LCT/LCA and LST's and there was still the issue of U-boat activity which had an impact on the required logistical build up. Without the meat-grinder of the Italian campaign the Heer would also have more experienced troops and formations plus they would be under reduced operational and logistical pressure.

Ultimately the Western coastal defences were a huge waste of German resources which had a limited impact on the Wallies beyond the 6/7th of June in the Normandy AO. The Germans used a lot of concrete and more importantly steel which could have been better used elsewhere.

The Wallies could get ashore in 1943 but I suspect it would have turned into a slugfest with high allied casualties.
The Luftwaffe was still a force to be reckoned with in early 1943
Single engine fighters won't stop D-Day, most of the bombers were in other theaters

Since the invasion would be important, the VT fuses will be available to the RN and USN. OTL the first combat use was by USS Helena in January 1943
There was also a shortage of LCT/LCA and LST's
'Germany First' so not much will happen in the Pacific.
The Wallies could get ashore in 1943 but I suspect it would have turned into a slugfest with high allied casualties.
That I do agree with, though the Luftwaffe dies much sooner, D-Day in 1943 would have aborted Italy, so there is none of that meatgrinder
It is (also) all about logistics.

I am not sure that Marshall really understood the magnitude of Overlord. Securing a bridgehead, defending it, building it up and finally break-out did require a few things beyond just landing there.

Brooke even asked Marshall: … and when we have landed, then what? do we go north, South, East or do we sit down and play chemin de fere'?

Brooke regarded Italy as a strategic trap. If no invasion of Italy had been attempted, the divisions lodged in Italy would and could have been used in Normandy. And that would have been uncomfortable.

1944 was probably the earliest if a success was the goal. Otherwise Dieppe writ large
Earlier D-Day would just be a bigger Dieppe disaster.
Show your work.
A small Raid isn't an invasion.

How many Battleships were doing NGFS for that Raid?

OK, Heavy Cruisers, then.

Alright, a couple light Cruisers then?


What, none? Hmm

So destroyers.
Probably some of those powerful Tribals?


They had a couple Destroyers with 4" guns. Hunts, wimpier in some ways than USN Destroyer Escorts.
Yep, that means you sure are serious about success when you have a couple of those monsters of the Sea assigned to your Op.

Say what you will about the USN, but they sent the A Team for serious Raids
There are two possible options for an Allied invasion of France, in the summers of 1942 and 1943. I will cover 1942 with this thread. I believe the Allied options were quite broad until June of 1942. GEN Erwin Rommel’s defeat of British Eighth Army at Gazala and Tobruk that month forced the Allies to focus only on relieving pressure on the British position in Egypt. This meant landings in French North Africa, which materialized as Operation Torch.

There is a time lag between a firm decision and the actual execution of an operation, usually four to six months in which it can be aborted; but not shifted to a new objective without starting planning all over again. Invasion prerequisites must ensure adequate bases, logistics, military, naval and air forces are in place. There are two options for an amphibious landing, the English Channel or French Mediterranean coast. The former has established bases in Great Britain, the latter does not. However, the French Riviera does have the advantage of invading forces not encountering German troops until they are firmly ashore. Obtaining a necessary base for landings in Southern France requires an occupation of Sardinia first.

The strategic rationale for invading Sardinia and then Southern France is that it is a viable alternative to Operations Bolero (build-up of U.S. Army in Great Britain) and Sledgehammer (1942 emergency invasion of Northern France). British were dead-set against Sledgehammer because the U.S. commitment was only three divisions, the remainder of the force was British and Canadian. If Sledgehammer did succeed in saving Russia from an imminent collapse by drawing off enough German forces, then a Dunkirk-style evacuation on a scale even larger than 1940 would be required.

Therefore, I conclude that any assault on Sardinia must have a decision date no later than January 1942, and be executed prior to June 1942. Any simultaneous assault on Corsica would increase the risks of the entry of Vichy France into the war on the Axis side, or a German occupation of the remainder of France before the Allies are ashore. Control of the sea-lanes between Gibraltar and Sardinia would be lost as the Allies simply lack sufficient combat power to simultaneously occupy Sardinia, Corsica, Vichy France and French North Africa all at once.

On the other hand, once captured, Sardinia would not be evacuated, and any Axis forces withdrawn from Russia could be spread from Norway to Bordeaux and from Genoa to Crete to defend against the next amphibious assault. Capture of Sardinia would eliminate the safest convoy route from Italy to Libya by opening the one passing west of Sicily and east of Tunisia to Allied air and surface attack. It would also reduce the window for uncontested air attacks on Malta convoys from three days to one. An invasion of Sardinia (Operation Brimstone) would make strategic sense whether the Soviets were in imminent danger of collapse or not.

The first British interest in invading Sardinia that I am aware of was in February 1941, when Churchill suggested that troops from Egypt could execute it once Tripoli were captured. This interest evaporated when Greece invited British troops later that month leading to disaster in the Balkans by April-May 1941. The Italians became aware of this interest through their espionage network in Cairo, and sent the 44th Cremona Infantry Division to Sardinia in April 1941 to reinforce the locally recruited 30th Saubauda and 31st Calabria Infantry Divisions. Later, in December 1941, the 204th and 205th Coastal Divisions were formed to help protect Sardinia from invasion. It would not be difficult to revive British interest at the Arcadia Conference in Washington D.C. during December 1941-January 1942.

Only the 44th Cremona Infantry Division can be considered combat ready. Due to heavy Italian shipping losses, Sardinia is required to be self-sufficient in food, and at any given time 10-15% of the troops of two remaining divisions are furloughed to engage in agricultural labor. The two coastal divisions have personnel assigned, but are partially equipped due to losses in artillery, mortars, heavy machine guns, vehicles and other equipment in North Africa and Russia the previous winter. Consequently, training has lagged. Coastal divisions are also low on the priority list, and their presence may not even be known to the Allies.

If a solid decision were made in January 1942, the following operations must be cancelled to provide troops, naval and air support, and shipping: Bolero, Sledgehammer, The Doolittle Raid, Ironclad (Invasion of Madagascar May 1942) as well as convoys to Russia departing after mid-March 1942. Additional risk in the Indian Ocean is also accepted after the capture of Singapore to ensure success in the Mediterranean. No additional USN ships are transferred to the Pacific after 31 January 1942. Ironically, cancelling the Doolittle Raid frees VA William Halsey, USS Enterprise and escorts to participate in the Battle of Coral Sea – an interesting thread outside the scope of this one.

The invasion date is set for 3 May 1942, the earliest opportunity to allow USN ships to resume transfers to the Pacific, but after a resupply convoy to Malta in April. Naval Forces for Operation Brimstone are overwhelming, and entails the risk that KMS Tirpitz may break out on a raiding cruise without opposition. This risk was accepted earlier during major resupply efforts for Malta, beginning with Operation Halberd in September 1941.

USN (VA Kent Hewitt) in three elements: Task Force 34.1 consists of aircraft carriers USS Hornet, Wasp, Ranger; battleships USS Washington, North Carolina; heavy cruisers USS Wichita, Tuscaloosa, Vincennes, Augusta; light cruisers USS Atlanta, Juneau, San Diego, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Savannah, Nashville, destroyers USS Warrington, Benson, Mayo, Gleaves, Niblack, Madison, Lansdale, Hillary P Jones, Charles F Hughes, Plunkett, Meredith, Grayson, Monssen, Gwin, Wilson, Sterett, and Lang (Total 18). USN Close Escort (Task Force 34.2) for the 102 amphibious and cargo ships contains battleships USS New Mexico, Texas, New York; light cruisers USS Milwaukee, Memphis; destroyers USS Davis, Eberle, Livermore, Kearny, Ericsson, Forrest, Fitch, Corry, Hobson, Mayrant, Rhind, Rowan, Stack, Wainwright, Buck, Roe, Bainbridge, Greer and Tarbell (Total 19). Destroyers USS Wolsey, Ludlow, Dallas, Simpson and Broome escort a supply group (Task Force 34.3) including escort carrier USS Charger plus oilers USS Salamonie, Cimarron and Chemung. (Ships based on Operation Torch with adjustments for historical presence in the Atlantic, refit schedules, etc.) Most naval bombardment by USN ships were diversionary in nature, since the targets needed to be seized intact, not destroyed.

The USN brings 105 fighter, 116 bomber and 23 torpedo aircraft aboard its three carriers, in four types: Grumman F4F Wildcat, Douglas SBD Dauntless, Vought SB2U Vindicator and Douglas TBD Devastator. They are distributed in 14 squadrons aboard USS Hornet: VF-8 (19 F4F-3, 2 F4F-4); VS-8 (21 SBD-3), VB-8 (21 SBD-3), VT-8 (16 TBD-1); USS Wasp: VF-71 (18 F4F-3, 3 F4F-4); VF-72 (17 F4F-3, 4 F4F-4); VS-71 (7 SB2U-1, 10 SB2U-2, 3 TBD-1); VS 72 (20 SB2U-2); VT-7 (4 TBD-1); USS Ranger: VF-5 (18 F4F-3, 3 F4F-4); VF-41 (17 F4F-3, 4 F4F-4); VS-41 (14 SB2U-1, 2 SB2U-2); VS-42 (12 SB2U-1, 6 SB2U-2); VT-4 (3 TBD-1). USS Charger carries 66 USAAF Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk fighters with modified undercarriages for a catapult launch. [These Kittyhawks were historically flown from USS Ranger to Takoradi Airfield (Gold Coast) en-route to China during May 1942]

A RN Strike Force from Home waters combined with Gibraltar-based Force H; with aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious (No 810, 829, 881, 882 Sqn), Formidable (No 807, 820, 824, 888 Sqn), Victorious (No 801, 809, 812, 832 Sqn) battleships HMS King George V, Duke of York; battlecruiser HMS Renown; heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk, London, Devonshire; light cruisers HMS Kenya, Mauritius, Gambia, Charybdis, Manchester, Liverpool, Delhi; destroyers HMS Quentin, Partridge, Pathfinder, Penn, Onslow, Offa, Oribi, Laforey, Lookout, Lightning, Ashanti, Somali, Punjabi, Intrepid, Icarus, Faulknor, Forester, Fury, Escapade, Echo, Achates, Active, and Volunteer (Total 23). No 881, 882, 888 Sqn are equipped with 12 Martlet; No 807, 809 – 12 Fulmar; No 801 – 8 Sea Hurricane; No 810, 824, 829 – 12 Swordfish; No 820, 812, 832- 12 Albacore. A total of 140 aircraft.

Force K from the Mediterranean Fleet will launch air attacks and conduct night bombardments in Cyrenaica as a diversion. It contains aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (No 880 Sqn -12 Sea Hurricane; No 800 – 12 Fulmar; No 806 – 4 Fulmar; No 827, 831 – each 12 Albacore); battleship HMS Warspite; heavy cruisers HMS Dorsetshire, Cornwall; light cruisers HMS Hermione, Euryalus, Cleopatra, Dido, Newcastle; destroyers HMAS Napier, Nestor, Norman, HMS Lively, Lance, Kipling, Jervis, Jackal, Janus, Hotspur, Hasty, HMNethS Van Galen and Isaac Sweers (Total 13).

The RN Close Escort Force (Force A) consists of battleships HMS Nelson, Malaya; heavy cruisers Kent, Berwick; light cruisers Nigeria, Trinidad, Edinburgh, Ajax, Cairo, Curacoa; destroyers HMS Matchless, Marne, Martin, Ithuriel, Inglefield, Eclipse, Duncan, Brilliant, Antelope, Wishart, Westcott, Wrestler; escort destroyers HMS Wilton, Tetcott, Ledbury, Lamerton, Blankney and French La Combattante (Total 18). On 30 April 1942, just north of Gibraltar, HMS Edinburgh was torpedoed by KMS U-462, but made port successfully.

The RN Support Group (Force V) boasted three small aircraft carriers, HMS Eagle, Hermes and Argus; escorted by light cruiser HMS Arethusa; destroyers HMS Vidette and French Leopard; and escort destroyers HMS Aldenham, Blackmore, Badsworth, Grove, Middleton, and Polish Kujawiak (Total 8). One oiler, RFA Brown Ranger was attached to refuel the small escort destroyers. HMS Eagle, Hermes and Argus each had three Fairey Swordfish from No 813 Sqn for antisubmarine patrols; and respectively 23, 20 and 24 Supermarine Spitfire VC fighters (the historical number delivered to Malta by USS Wasp in May 1942).

The Italian Navy is hard pressed to match the Allied armada. Battleships RItS Littorio, Caio Dulio and Guilio Cesare are operational; but RItS Vittorio Veneto is still working up after repairs to torpedo damage and RItS Andrea Doria is undergoing engine repairs. Heavy cruisers RItS Bolzano, and Gorizia are in service, but RItS Trento and Trieste are under refit. Light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi, Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta, Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and Muzio Attendolo are available for a total of only seven cruisers. Destroyers number 17: RItS Mitragliere, Legionario, Alpino, Ascari, Aviere, Bersagliere, Camicia Nera, Fuciliere, Granatiere, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale, Folgore, Freccia, Saetta, Ugilino Vivaldi, Lancerotto Malocello and Premuda.

RItS Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli, Ascari, Alfredo Oriani, Ugilino Vivaldi, Lancerotto Malocello and Premuda were stationed at Cagliari, on Sardinia, the remainder at Taranto. Italian Naval Intelligence became aware of the size of Force H reinforcements from the Spanish port of Algeciras beginning on 1 May; observing a massive pre-dawn explosion of HMS Punjabi’s depth charges when accidentally rammed by HMS King George V while departing harbor. By 2 May with the refueling of Task Force 34, the scale of the Allied Force was clear, but not the destination. The Italians could not know if it was an invasion force or a massive reinforcement of Egypt by the most direct route. Nor could a second air strike replicating the November 1940 attack on Taranto be ruled out. Outnumbered, the Italian fleet responds cautiously; the squadron at Cagliari withdrawing to Palermo.

Once the landings were made, Allied warships protecting the invasion beaches made predictable and somewhat restrictive movements to remain close to their charges. USN Chief of Naval Operations ADM Ernest J King is a bitter Anglophobe and opponent of USN deployments to Europe. Once success of the landings is assured, USS Hornet, North Carolina, Vincennes, Atlanta, Juneau, Nashville, Meredith, Gwin, Grayson, Monssen, Sterett, Lang, Wilson, Stack and Cimarron depart on 7 May 1942 for Pearl Harbor via Gibraltar, Guantanamo Bay, Panama and San Diego, arriving 19 days later. USS Wasp, Washington, Quincy, Juneau, San Diego depart the Mediterranean on 18 May 1942 with an escort of destroyers for refits on the East Coast before transferring to the Pacific. The remaining USN vessels departed as merchant ships were unloaded, the last leaving on 28 May 1942.

About 130 Italian aircraft are stationed on Sardinia, with a good rate of serviceability. Another 45 German aircraft are slated to arrive from Crete on 4 May 1942 after reconnaissance confirmed the approaching Allied Fleets. On D-Day, 3 May, Italian fighters are in the air on dawn patrol, but soon swamped in northern sector by VF-5, VF-8 and VF-72; while VB-8, VS-42, VS-71, VT-4 and VT-7 engaged in bombing shore targets. These included SM-79 level and torpedo bombers armed and spotted for launch once the location of the Allied fleets was reported. The remaining USN aircraft were held back for combat and anti-submarine patrols and in case the Italian Fleet was located at sea. Similar losses were suffered in the southern sector where No 881, 882, 888 Sqn covered for strikes by No 810, 812, 820 and 824 Sqn. In the early afternoon, reserve squadrons launched attacks on invasion beaches and airfields in central Sardinia. By the end of the day, Italian air power was crippled, and German aircraft remain on Sicily.

The overall Army Commander for Operation Brimstone is LTG Harold Alexander, who upon his selection is not sent to Burma. This is because the British are supplying the majority of troops. His Deputy is MG Dwight D Eisenhower who already has the full confidence of GEN George Marshall. Under Alexander are First British Army commanded by LTG Bernard Montgomery and I US Armored Corps under MG George S Patton. Marshall, Eisenhower and Patton all have in common a mentor in retired MG Fox Conner, Chief of Staff to GEN John J Pershing during World War I, and the latter two have Marshall’s confidence as planners. Montgomery, for all of his arrogance enjoys a similarly high (and well-deserved) reputation in the British Army.

British First Army contains under its direct command Force 110, containing 1 Guards and 36 Infantry Brigade Groups; 5 Division (13, 15 and 17 Brigades), 29 Independent Brigade [containing four infantry battalions, an armoured regiment of mixed Valentine and Tetrarch tanks (Special Service Regiment), and a field regiment of 25pdr howitzers]; and 5 Commando. All units of Force 110 have undergone significant amphibious training except 15 Brigade, and are commanded by Royal Marine MG Robert Sturges. V British Corps under MG Charles Allfrey is allocated as a follow-on force with 1 and 4 Divisions and (25 Army) Tank Brigade with nearly 200 Churchill/Valentine infantry tanks.

Montgomery is assigned beaches around Cagliari, the largest port of Sardinia on its southern coast. The 6-inch coastal defense batteries are engaged by HMS Nelson, Kent and Ajax covering a direct assault by 5 Commando. Once neutralized, other landings proceed. 5 Division is assigned landing beaches to the east of the port including Monserrato Airfield four miles inland; 29 Independent Brigade (which has the only three LSTs in the RN assigned) is to assault just west of the port and advance rapidly inland to seize the key Cagliari-Elmas Airfield (most capable in Sardinia) located there. Force 110 envelops the smaller port of Quartu about eight miles east of Cagliari. The landings begin on 4 May, and although pockets of resistance are stiff from 30th Saubauda Division, both ports and both airfields are secured on D-Day.

After a day of consolidation to allow British Army stevedore and logistical personnel to disembark, 5 Division began advancing slowly northwest of Cagliari, and 1 Guards Brigade up the east coast of Sardinia from Quartu. 29 Independent Brigade and 36 Brigade remained in general reserve. Spitfire VC fighters became operational from Cagliari-Elmas Airfield on 7 May and Monserrato Airfield the next day. Forc V returned to Gibraltar, where Hurricane IIC and IV aircraft trained in ground support operations were embarked and flew off for Sardinia on 13 May.

On 8 May, 5 Division encountered prepared positions of the 44th Cremona Infantry Division short of Decimommanu Airfield 15 miles from Cagliari; and its advance was halted. The same day, 29 Independent Brigade was released to sweep the southwestern corner of Sardinia. The Humber armoured cars of 5/Reconnaissance Corps had not yet arrived from disembarkation at Cagliari, and the Italian positions were uncertain for 25 hours. On 10 May, 40/Royal Tank Regiment of (25 Army) Tank Brigade; 1/Reconnaissance Corps, 38 (Irish) Infantry Bde and a field regiment of 1 Division reinforced 5 Division and Montgomery personally planned a deliberate attack on 44th Cremona Infantry Division. Begun on 12 May, in two days the Italian defenses were broken. By this time, Sardinian recruits were discarding uniforms and returning home.

I US Armored Corps landings are on the northern coast of Sardinia, with the three US units most experienced in amphibious operations. 3rd US Infantry Division (3rd US ID) pioneered US amphibious doctrine in two sets of maneuvers in Puget Sound in 1940, and again the following summer in Monterrey Bay near Ft Ord. The 1st Marine Raider Battalion attached; embarked in the six destroyer transports (APDs) they had trained with for the previous year. Acting as shock troops, they spearhead landings just south and north of the port of Alghero under cover of darkness. 7th and 30th U.S. Infantry Regiments (IR) follow them ashore, and 31st Calabria Infantry Division is too spread out at likely invasion sites to concentrate rapidly enough to prevent the capture of this port.

As soon as Alghero is captured, 2nd U.S. Cavalry Division, minus 3rd U.S. Cavalry Brigade (retained in the United States to cadre the 9th U.S. Armored Division) begins disembarkation. As with most of I Armored Corps, 4th Cavalry Brigade consisted of veteran Regular Army troops, the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiments (Colored). Supported by the 3rd and 16th Field Artillery Battalions (75mm guns), the mission assigned these horse mounded troops is to act as dragoons in the rugged mountainous terrain of Northern Sardinia where roads were few and unimproved. Establishing blocking positions in the few places where an effective counterattack can be mounted, they protect the other movements of the Corps from disruption. Fodder is plentiful in the spring, which allows the limited supply of gasoline landed to be prioritized to other units. (Historical note: Patton requested 2nd U.S. Cavalry Division for Operation Torch to screen the mountainous terrain on the border with Spanish Morocco, but the unit had already been disbanded in July 1942.)

15th U.S. IR lands directly on the seaplane ramps of Fertilia Airfield (equal in size to Cagliari-Elmas, but fewer hangers and facilities) north of Alghero and on nearby beaches. Again, elements of 31st Calabria Infantry Division are too thin to avoid being flanked and overrun. The airfield is secured after six hours, and becomes the first operational airfield when P-40s from USS Charger arrive. Beginning 8 May, Combat Command A of 1st US Armored Division (CCA/1 AD) begins offloading its tanks and half-tracks pier side.

7th U.S. ID (minus 17th IR) lands at Porto Torres, some 21 miles north of Fertilla across the base of a shallow peninsula. It is seized without opposition, and the small port is taxed just to supply daily rations. In 36 hours, the division has advanced inland to capture the city of Sassari, and the next day linked up with 15th U.S. IR. 17th U.S. IR assaulted the island port of La Maddalena, and saw some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign, as much of the 205th Coastal Division was concentrated there. The port was not secured until 6 May and the island the following day, which allowed TF 34.1 and 1st USMC Raider Bn to be released. La Maddalena allowed the Americans early warning of air attacks coming from the Italian mainland.

Each combat element of I U.S. Armored Corps was assigned a platoon or company from the 107th U.S. IR. This regiment activated on 10 February 1942 from Italian-speaking troops serving in National Guard Divisions. Acting as a civil-military affairs detachments, the 107th U.S. IR is effective in securing the cooperation of captured Italian officials, and using telephone exchanges, persuading others not to sabotage infrastructure, communications, roads and rail facilities. Valuable intelligence was obtained from anti-Fascists contacted by chance.

On 11 May, Patton had stockpiled enough transport and fuel to send CCA/1 AD and 30th U.S. IR down the main highway from Alghero to Oristano – some 65 miles in three days. The lightning thrust captured three more airfields, Milis, an auxiliary bomber field north of the city, Oristano Airfield similar in capability to Fertilla, and Casa Zeppara four miles to the southwest of the city that was the primary base for torpedo bombers on Sardinia. As ground crews and P-40s arrived, they were replaced at Fertilla Airfield by the 1st Fighter Group, which flew its P-38E aircraft from Gibraltar; and 12th Bombardment Group with B-25s on 20-21 May.

CCA/1 AD also overran the Blackshirt Legion of the 44th Cremona Infantry Division which was utterly ill-equipped to face M-3 Lee and M-3 Stuart tanks, nor fight infantry from half-tracks. This defeat on 15 May convinced Italian commanders that further resistance was futile. In the north, 7 U.S. ID had cleared Ozieri and its small airfield and was advancing towards Olbia. The final element of I Armored Corps, 5 U.S. ID (minus its 10th U.S. IR and artillery sent to Iceland in October 1941) began to arrive on 15 May, too late to see any combat. There was no organized evacuation, 5 Division captured Villacidro Airfield on 19 May, and 159th U.S. IR took Venefiorita Airfield, 6 miles north of Olbia the next day and all airfields were in Allied hands 17 days after the landings. The last Italian troops “went into the bag” on 23 May.

In a postscript to Operation Brimstone, on 20 May 1942 the 38th U.S. Engineer Regiment (General Service) arrived on Sardinia with the mission of expanding existing port capacity. Four days later, the 45th U.S. Engineer Regiment (General Service) (Colored) arrived with the mission of building massive numbers of Quonset huts and ammunition bunkers to support further operations. The achievements of these engineers would be essential to the opening of a second front in Europe.

On 1 June, 78 Division HQ was formed on Sardinia, and 1 Guards, 29 and 36 Brigades, and Special Service Regiment are assigned. Two weeks later, the island of Pantelleria and its vital airfield were taken with few casualties. Pantelleria has no water sources, and once cisterns were drained relied on water tankers resupplying it from the mainland. With the capture of Sardinia, such resupply was unlikely, and the Italian commander capitulated to the British rather than later to thirst.

The RN did suffer one loss off Sardinia, HMS Trinidad managed to torpedo herself during a confused night engagement with Italian destroyers on 15 May. Force K lost destroyers HMS Lively, Kipling and Jackal to the German dive-bombers operating from Sicily on 11 May while engaged in an ill-advised diversionary operation. However, the next month Operation Harpoon successfully resupplied Malta with the loss of destroyer HMS Hasty only.

The Italian response to the loss of Sardinia was both military and political. Within days of the Sardinian landings, the 131st Centauro Armored, 16th Pistoia Motorized and 185th Folgore Parachute Divisions would not be sent to North Africa; but to Sicily instead as that island was viewed as the next Allied target. Two weeks later, the Germans were informed the Italian Eighth Army would not deploy to Russia. Its Alpine troops would remain on the French Border, Semi-motorized and Infantry Divisions used to guard the area around Rome against possible amphibious assault. On 1 June, the Italians sheepishly requested the return of the five divisions sent to Russia in August 1941 as part of the Italian Expeditionary Force.

On 15 July 1942, the Fascist Council met for the first time in over a decade and deposed Benito Mussolini. He is replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. While the new government pledges loyalty to the Axis, internally a spirited debate begins over whether to seek an armistice with the Allies, and under what terms.

The German response is just as significant. Adolf Hitler viewed Russia, not the Mediterranean as the decisive front in the Second World War. Hitler sees no need whatsoever to amend Directive 41, issued on 5 April 1942 establishing Case Blue – the general offensive to capture the oil of the Caucasus and Stalingrad to secure its exposed flank. Hitler is forced to replace the nine Italian divisions intended for Case Blue, and there are few places they may be obtained from. Troops in Northern Finland, thus far unsuccessful in capturing Murmansk were selected; XXXVI German Mountain Corps with 163rd and 169th Infantry Divisions and 6th SS Division Nord were transferred in May 1942. XIX German Mountain Corps HQ was organized and together with 2nd, 6th and 7th Mountain Divisions and Panzer Battalion 211, transferred in June. Only 3rd and 5th Mountain Divisions remained to support the Finns north of the Arctic Circle. Both Corps became part of the newly formed Twenty-Third German Army. The 22nd Air Landing Division was assigned after the successful capture of Sevastopol in July instead of being sent to Crete on garrison duty. Because some divisions had three regiments, seven German divisions were able to replace nine Italian.

Hitler is also quite disillusioned with the inability of the Italians to defend their home territory, and believes that Sicily must be ‘stiffened” with German troops or it too will fall. Consequently, a replacement battalion of 40 PzKw IVF2 tanks – the most powerful in the German Army and infantry, artillery, engineer and other replacement troops were diverted to Sicily on 10 May 1942. A major factor in this decision is the high loss rate of personnel and material crossing the Mediterranean to Libya. With the loss of one of two convoy routes these losses are expected to increase. One week later, MG Gustav von Vaerst, commander of 15th Panzer Division was ordered with his key staff and logistical personnel to Sicily where his division would be rebuilt by diverting all further reinforcements there. Troops in North Africa were reallocated to 21st Panzer and 90th Light Divisions. To provide an infantry support, the 164th Light Division and 2nd Parachute Regiment were assigned on 21 May, and LTG Walther Nehring was detached from Afrika Korps to command this fledgling Sizilien Korps.

GEN Erwin Rommel flew to both Rome and Berlin to protest the neutering of his offensive plans, but was denied an audience with Hitler. Without German and Italian reinforcements there was little Rommel could do except wait at Gazala for British Eighth Army to complete its counteroffensive preparations. A number of spoiling attacks were launched, and while they inflicted greater Commonwealth casualties than Axis, they did not disrupt Auchinleck’s positioning of troops, logistics, and airpower to support the coming attack.

On 28 May 1942, the Soviets launched a 16-day offensive aimed at Kharkov that ended in total defeat and nearly 200,000 casualties. Exactly one month later, Fourth German Panzer, Second German, Twenty-Third German and Second Hungarian Armies begin the Case Blue Offensive from vicinity of Kursk and Orel. Two days later, Sixth German Army begins its drive on Stalingrad. It is joined on its southern flank by First German Panzer Army on 3 July. It is followed by Seventeenth German Army on 8 July to provide its southern flank with protection. The next day Sevastopol surrendered and over the next three weeks Eleventh German Army began crossing the Kerch Strait to join the attack. Fourth Romanian Army would follow. On 23 July 1942, Rostov is captured and Hitler personally writes Directive 45 to replace Fourth German Panzer Army with Third Romanian Army and directing the panzers to assume a position between Sixth and First German Panzer Armies. There is nothing in the Western Mediterranean to cause Hitler to alter the plans for Case Blue.

I realize that the greatest counterargument to any Alternative History scenario is that it did not happen that way. There is also a danger of applying 20-20 hindsight. I believe I have avoided that by thoroughly analyzing three possibilities that would enable Operation Brimstone to proceed as I have outlined. The first is the strong emotional attachment that PM Churchill felt towards the inhabitants of Malta and the desire to expeditiously lift its siege. Much of the RN force noted above was committed to the relief convoys Operations Harpoon and Pedestal in June and August 1942 respectively. The second possibility is that GEN Marshall could persuade his superiors that Russia just might fall without a second front, rendering a victorious outcome of the war difficult to envision.

The third possibility is British recognition that U.S. divisions not employed in combat in Europe in 1942 would be sent by Marshall to the Pacific instead. This last point is worth emphasizing. Marshall released the 1st U.S. Cavalry and 6th, 7th, 31st, 33rd, 38th 40th and 43rd U.S. Infantry Divisions to the Pacific after the postponement of landings in Europe. All of these divisions had trained for combat in Europe, and retraining for the Pacific Theater meant six of these eight divisions did not see combat until 1944.

The success of Operation Brimstone confirms the quality of U.S. commanders in a combat debut, their ability to properly plan and execute a complex operation, and U.S logistical capabilities. Air supremacy over a significant sector was quickly seized and maintained; and U.S. airmen proved capable. All of these issues were greatly doubted by the British at the Arcadia Conference. Secondly, the concept of a single supreme commander was tested and proven. Although the Italian defenders on Sardinia proved second-rate (a factor unknown to the Allies in May 1942), Allied confidence receives a considerable boost when it is needed the most.

In my next post I will cover an invasion of Unoccupied France in 1942. As always, comments, dissenting views, etc. are always welcome.
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I examine the possibility of an invasion of Southern (Unoccupied Vichy) France with the same assumption that unless a decision to invade was made by the end of January 1942 it is not possible. I remain convinced that an invasion would only be attempted if the Western Allies were convinced the Soviet Union might collapse without a Second Front.

Secondly, the success of Operation Brimstone is a prerequisite as a large enough base to house 600-700 aircraft prior to immediate deployment once air bases are secured in France. Sardinia acts as a shield against Italian air or naval intervention against the invasion fleet. It also secures the sea lanes to Malta and disrupts Axis supply to North Africa which permits a concentration in the Western Mediterranean. In my previous post I demonstrated that sufficient resources were available if other priorities were subordinated, and that tactical success was feasible.

I believe PM Winston Churchill would attempt to parry success in Sardinia into an invasion of Sicily. This would accord with long-standing British strategies, and avoid the possibility of either a second defeat on the European continent, or a bloody stalemate as in the First World War. Sicily would never suffice as a Second Front. In addition, even if stalemate resulted, it would likely be after German U-boat bases at Brest and Lorient have been neutralized, greatly reducing the threat to Britain’s seaborne lifeline. Finally, Sicily would entail a delay of four to six months for planning.

President Franklin D Roosevelt would be unpersuaded by Churchill. Victory in Sardinia is a welcome balm after the loss of the Philippines, and for domestic political reasons Roosevelt is anxious for further success to bolster support for his “Germany First” strategic decision. This does come at a cost – losing his closest military advisor. Churchill will insist on an American Supreme Commander for two reasons. His own stable of successful generals in 1942 is rather thin, if invasion failed or ended in stalemate, the American commander would absorb much of the blame. This was the main reason for the choice of MG Dwight D Eisenhower to command Operation Torch. Secondly, to avoid that an American Commander would enjoy first claim on resources above any other theater.

The only possible American commander is GEN George C Marshall, and his appointment is a demotion from his position as Chief of Staff. He is replaced by LTG Lesley J McNair, Chief of Ground Forces who in turn is replaced by LTG Joseph J Stillwell. Marshall does have one great advantage over Eisenhower in that all US Army Air Force (USAAF) commanders were previously subordinate to him, and would continue to so feel. Although the available USAAF units are much fewer in number in 1942 than 1944, this is partially compensated for by being much more closely integrated with and supportive of ground forces. Marshall’s Deputy is GEN Sir John Dill, the senior British officer at the Arcadia Conference and former Chief of Imperial Defence Staff (CIDS).

The British Army is much stronger in 1942 than 1944 – at least three armoured divisions [8, 9 and 42 (East Lancashire)] will be engaged in combat instead of disbanded for replacements for casualties in North Africa and Italy. Until about October 1942, British and Canadian armoured divisions committed also have two armoured brigades instead of one. British cruiser tanks are notoriously unreliable and all British tanks are under-gunned. Three armoured divisions – 1 Guards, 9, and 42 (East Lancashire) will be initially equipped with Lend-Lease M-3 Grant/M-3 Stuart and M-4 Sherman in 1943. The Canadian armoured divisions are equipped with Ram II tanks; reliable due to a chassis derived from the U.S. M-3, and carrying a 6pdr gun.

The number of infantry divisions is also greater: 38 (Welsh), 45 (Wessex), 47 (London), 48 (South Midland), 54 (East Anglia), 55 (West Lancashire) and 61 (South Midland) Divisions will not be broken up or reduced to training formations as they were in 1944. Several were reduced to second line status in December 1941, but are brought back up to strength by reducing allocations for independent tank brigades, expansion of RAF Bomber Command, and reducing Home Defence anti-aircraft crews. Missing from both the British and American order of battle are the huge and powerful Army-level artillery groups so effective in 1944-5.

The US Army will also pay a price in delayed expansion. The 13th, 14th, 16th and 20th U.S. AD will not be activated at all to provide combat replacements. One Regular Army Division, 8th ID will remain in the United States to cadre Army of the United States (AUS) Divisions until December 1943. Despite this, several AUS Divisions will be delayed – activation of 81st U.S. ID from June 1942 until January 1943; 95th U.S. ID from July 1942 until April 1943; and deployment overseas of 85th U.S. ID from December 1943 to Apr 1944; 77th U.S. ID from March to July 1944; 83rd U.S. Id from April until August 1944; 80th U.S. ID from July until November 1944; and 84th U.S. ID to January 1945 from September 1944.

Marshall will have available five Regular Army armored divisions by the end of 1942. A sixth is obtained by converting the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division to a standard armored division between January 1942 and February 1943. One advantage of their combat commitment in 1942-3 is the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) contains two armor regiments of six battalions instead of three tank battalions. Beginning with 2nd U.S. AD, they deploy with M-4 Sherman tanks which are equal to the PzKwIVG and H models being fielded by the Wehrmacht. In addition, Marshall will have ten Regular and 14 National Guard Infantry Divisions available in 1942. There will then be a lull of about six months before the first AUS armored division can arrive, and a year before the first AUS infantry division.

Allied intelligence is well aware of the nakedness of French defenses on the Mediterranean coast, because the terms of the 1940 Armistice were publicized. All coastal defense guns were demilitarized, breach blocks removed and ammunition placed long-term storage. The Germans and Italians insisted upon this because they fully expected to eventually occupy these French territories. (Historical note: Without this disarmament, the British Fleet could never have bombarded the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir in July 1940 without great risk from 13.4inch and 9.4inch shore batteries. Nor would the Oran landings of Operation Torch been feasible. The Germans allowed rearmament of Moroccan and Senegal positions, which permitted the defeat of the British-Free French landings at Dakar in September 1940.)

This lack of coastal defenses in Southern France is a two-edged sword the Allies could take full advantage of.

The Vichy French Armistice Army was limited to 88,000 personnel, in eight regional divisions divided into two groups. Each “Division Militaire” (DM) consists of three understrength infantry regiments, a squadron-sized mixed truck/horse cavalry regiment, and an artillery regiment of 12 75mm guns. No tanks, heavy artillery, anti-tank or anti-aircraft guns, machine guns heavier than 7.5mm, engineers or motor transport were allowed by the Armistice terms – a total of about 9,000 troops. Two cavalry brigades, containing two squadron-sized regiments equipped with horses only. There were two companies of Panhard armored cars with their 25mm guns replaced by 7.5mm machine guns.

As did the Germans after Versailles, the Armistice Army did its best to circumvent the Armistice terms. This was more easily done with personnel limits than with equipment, since much of which survived 1940 was obsolete. There was a National Reserve of 25,000 selected personnel, staff for reforming Corps Headquarters, specialists in heavy artillery, armor, anti-tank and other banned weapons, logistics, communications and war college instructors. Paid by Vichy they worked in secret to keep alive the ability on short notice to reconstruct a large army.

A second source of manpower was the Chantiers de la Jeunesse Francais (CJF). Some 46,000 were currently undergoing what in essence was basic training without weapons training and qualification. Training could last up to eight months for those with special skills or the potential to become junior or non-commissioned officers. Another 124,000 CIF had completed training since the program began in October 1940. Once mobilized and trained on weapons CIF would fill out the existing eight DM into infantry formations, and provide cadres for additional units when combined with veterans recalled to service. All told, about 700,000 males in Vichy France could potentially be mobilized.

The First Group of Division Militaire, headquartered (HQ) in Avignon consisted of 7th DM based at Bourg En Basse; 14th DM at Lyon; 15th DM at Marseilles; 16th DM at Montpelier; and 1st Cavalry Bde at Villefranche. Second Group of Division Militaire at Royat contained 9th DM at Chateauroux; 12th DM at Limoges; 13th DM at Clermont-Ferrand; 17th DM at Toulouse; and 2nd Cavalry Bde at Tulle. It will be noted that only 15th and 16th DM are located on the coast, so a closer look at them is warranted.

The 15th DM had the 21st Colonial IR and the 10th French Artillery Regiment (Regt) based at Marseilles, a total of about 3200 troops including HQ personnel, and the 15th DM’s 12 75mm guns. The 21st French Colonial IR contained French troops conscripted in North Africa and serving their two-year commitment. Of the other two regiments, 43rd Algerian IR contained Arab troops and was based at St Raphael on the coast near the Italian Occupation Zone. The 2nd Alpine IR was located at Digne, further inland, and the 12th French Cavalry Regt at Aux-en-Provence some 30 miles by road from Marseilles. The independent French Corsican Infantry Battalion of some 900 troops was part of the 15th DM, and responsible for garrisoning the entire island.

The 16th DM deployed 51st French IR, 15th French IR, and 3rd French Artillery Regt near the port of Montpelier, the 8th French IR inland at Nimes, and the 2nd French Colonial IR to the south at the port of Narbonne. As can be seen from these positions, the bulk of the Armistice Army was deployed to face German and Italian invaders. The vital naval base of Toulon, for example was not garrisoned by Army troops. Nor was their much of a naval presence. The 7,000 officers and sailors allocated by the Armistice allowed active ships based at Toulon to be manned at just under peacetime levels. The Armistice Air Force was limited to only 5,000 personnel. Its fighter pilots were allowed only six hours of flight time per month, other air crews only eight hours. All of this was well known, primarily through U.S. Ambassador ADM William Leahy, a close confidant of Roosevelt.

It must be emphasized that without the lack of active French defensive positions and a large, mobile, armored counterattack force in reserve; an Allied invasion in 1942 could not succeed. Success depended upon getting ashore and establishing logistical support through undamaged ports.

The initial Armistice Protocols required the French colonies to be garrisoned at the minimal level necessary for internal security. After the British attack on Dakar and invasion of Syria (July 1941) these limits were lifted in two stages. Naval and air personnel stationed overseas were not counted against the Armistice limits of 7,000 and 5,000 respectively. In most respects, French North Africa itself was better defended than Vichy France itself – its garrison numbers about 120,000.

In sharp contrast, the inability of Allied Military Intelligence to report the nakedness of German defenses in France in both 1942 and 1943 ranks among the great intelligence failures of the Second World War – equal to the Pearl Harbor attack, or the failure by Stalin to perceive Operation Barbarossa. There was not one combat-ready Panzer (Pzr) or Panzergrenadier (PzGr) Division in Occupied France. There were only 11 combat ready infantry divisions, backed by eight static divisions of only two infantry regiments and generally lacking any artillery, anti-tank or anti-aircraft units or organic transport; to cover from the Netherlands to Spain. The remaining divisions were all in various stages of reconstitution after arduous service on the Russian Front. A closer look at the deployment of the three German Field Armies in the West is revealing.

First German Army – Western France: LXXXV Korps7th Pzr Division cadre arrived to a camp Southwest of Bordeaux in early May 1942 to absorb replacements while the remaining survivors from the Russian Front were granted extended leave. Reunited in mid-June, 7th Pzr Division was brought up to full-strength and is engaged in company and battalion-level training principally with Czech tanks and equipment. It is expected to be ready for combat in late October. 17th Infantry Division (Southeast of Bordeaux) arrived from Russia in early June, and began active training a month later and is close to reaching full manning. It is expected to be combat ready in late September. 370th Infantry Division was organized in May 1942 at the highest priority, with a strong cadre at Mont de Marsan and is intended to be ready to depart for Russia in late August. It is engaged in its final divisional-sized training exercise. 715th Static division is spread out in penny packets from Bayonne to the mouth of the Garonne Estuary.
LXXXII Korps – 327th Infantry Division stationed at La Rochelle is combat ready. The 708th, 709th and 719th Static Divisions are stationed near Nantes, in Southeast Brittany and Brest respectively.
LXXXIII Korps6th Pzr Division at Angers has completed reception of operational tanks and equipment from German factories and is commencing final divisional maneuvers. It is a couple weeks away from being combat ready. 27th Pzr Division at Le Mans began conversion from 23rd Infantry Division in late July 1942. 15th Infantry Division completed reconstitution in May 1942 and is mobile reserve in case of invasion.

Seventh German Army – Northern France: XXV Korps – 319th Infantry Division, reinforced with a fourth regiment is stationed in the Channel Islands and is the most powerful formation in France. Although rated as combat ready, 333rd Infantry Division at Rennes has a high proportion of German-speaking Polish conscripts and would perform poorly in battle later in the war. By contrast, 335th Infantry Division at St Malo is very good.
XXXIV Korps2nd SS Pzr “Das Reich” Division cadre arrived at St Lo in late June and with personnel returning from leave, hospital, etc. began conversion from panzergrenadier status a month later. It is drawing Czech tanks for training. 334th Infantry Division at Cherbourg is one of better formations in France. 716th Static Division is located at Caen.
LXXXI Korps – 106th Infantry Division at Le Havre is combat ready, and the 302nd Static Division would surprise the German High Command with an unexpectedly fierce defense of Dieppe despite its lack of organic artillery. 711th Static Division is located at Rouen, and the enlarged 337th Static Division is responsible for the security of Paris.

Fifteenth German Army – Flanders Belgium and Netherlands: 26th Pzr Division under its direct command at St Dizier. This unit has been in existence less than a month. LXXX Korps – 10th Pzr Division at Amiens began the same refitting process as 7th Pzr Division in late May. 320th and 321st Infantry Divisions at Calais and Abbeville respectively are well-trained and equipped for anti-invasion duties. 377th Infantry Division at Chalons formed in March and is undergoing final divisional training prior to a scheduled transfer to Russia in early September.
LXXXIX Korps – 304th Infantry Division has been at Namur since December 1940, but is considered a poor, unreliable formation unfit for combat in Russia. The 306th Infantry Division near Brussels is considered a very good unit and the Luftwaffe Herman Goring Panzer Brigade at Mons (organized as a regiment in February 1942 and expanded to a Brigade in May) is in advanced training, and enjoys the allocation of the best tanks and equipment.
LXXXVIII Korps – 65th Infantry Division began organizing at Utrecht in mid-July, and due to troop shortages will have two rather than three infantry regiments. 167th Infantry Division completed reconstitution in early July after horrific losses in Russia the previous winter and is located at The Hague. 712th Static Division is located at Zeebrugge.

The Italian Army also lacks the ability to intervene rapidly or effectively in Southern France. It lacks mobile armored formations. Its available forces are grouped under Fourth Italian Army based at Menton, just inside the pre-1940 French border. Under its command are: I Italian Corps – 58th Legnano Division, 223rd and 224th Coastal Divisions along the coast east of Nice.
XV Italian Corps – 103rd Piacenza and 105th Rovigo Semi-Motorized Divisions; 201st Coastal Division in Army Reserve east of I Italian Corps.
XXII Italian Corps – 7th Lupe di Toscana Division on occupation duty in Savoy.
Alpine Corps – 2nd Tridentina, 3rd Julia and 4th Cunensee Alpine Divisions at various locations in the Italian Alps; with 156th Vicenza Security Division in reserve.

Both German and Italian Air Force assets are stretched to cover other commitments. Although the Luftwaffe would redeploy from the Balkans and Central Mediterranean, it is more difficult to envision that happening in Russia, the Netherlands and Northern France. Allied air power is backlogged into the United States and Canada because of lack of airfields; and more importantly, integration into an existing RAF network has not been developed. These issues are not existent in Vichy France once liberated.

Just as Axis military and air power cannot prevent an invasion, so too is naval power inadequate. The Kriegsmarine assets are limited to submarines and the Italian Fleet was unwilling to sortie out of range of air cover during Operation Brimstone. If sacrificing it to defend Italian territory is too great, then French territory will rate even lower. The only remaining obstacle is that of the French Fleet at Toulon. Two options exist, destroying it in advance of the invasion or co-opting it. The former carries risks. It would concede the element of surprise, further alienate the French people, and carries no guarantee of success. If a French submarine or fast large destroyer evaded detection and successfully attacked the right transport ships, the invasion may still succeed, but without sufficient momentum to expand the bridgehead. The second option requires skinny-dipping in the sewage of Vichy French politics and in the end is much more palatable.

Although Great Britain has broken diplomatic relations with Vichy France, the United States has not. ADM Francois Darlan was appointed simultaneously Minister of National Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces by Philippe Petain in February 1941; and named as Petain’s successor. Darlan, an Anglophobe, was convinced of the inevitability of German victory, and therefore collaborated with German war aims until Germany declared war on the United States in December 1941. Darlan believed from the outset that Japan had no chance of winning the Pacific War, and the full might of the Allies would then defeat Germany. He expressed these sentiments so freely that in April 1942 the Germans forced Petain to dismiss Darlan. Petain complied with the political posts, but retained Darlan as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Darlan was susceptible to American appeals to switch sides, and despite Darlan’s unsavory reputation as a Fascist toady, the Americans cut that deal with him during Operation Torch. The Americans would be (and were) somewhat cagey with Darlan, not divulging the date of the invasion; but promising him full support in exchange for a confidence-building measure; the removal of the French Fleet from Toulon. This is not difficult, Darlan is still Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Darlan informs the German and Italian Armistice Commissions he has solid intelligence that the Allies will invade Tunisia as a pincer movement against Libya; and Petain is told of an imminent Axis invasion to re-secure convoy routes to North Africa. Darlan also orders the mobilization of reserves in North Africa to allow regular forces to depart for France expeditiously.

The operational units of the French Fleet are transferred from Toulon to Bizerte, Tunisia. They consist of the battlecruiser FS Strasbourg; heavy cruisers FS Algerie, Dupleix, Colbert; light cruisers FS Marseillaise, Jean de Vienne; large destroyers FS Volta, L’Indomptable, Vauquelin, Kersaint, Cassard, Tartu, Vautour, Verdun; destroyers FS L’Adroit, Mameluk, Casque, and submarines FS Aurore, Marsouin Iris, Venus, Glorieux, Casabianca all set sail. The remaining ships were either in refit or out of commission with caretaker crews.

Preliminaries to the invasion include no deviation from the historical in Russia where the Case Blue offensive continues. In North Africa, GEN Claude Auchinleck is informed in May that 8 Armoured and 51 (Highland) Divisions will not be sent to Egypt, and then after Sardinia is secured that he must launch an all-out offensive against Rommel no later than 15 July 1942 or be relieved. Auchinleck complies. On the coast, LTG William “Stafer” Gott’s XIII British Corps attacks with 1 Armoured, 50 (Northumberland), 2 New Zealand, 4 Indian Divisions and 32 (Army) Tank Bde. Inland, MG Willoughby Norrie’s XXX British Corps attacked with 7 Armoured, 9 Australian, 2 South African, 5 Indian Divisions and 1 (Army) Tank Bde. X British Corps with the inexperienced 10 Armoured, 44 (Home Counties) and 10 Indian Divisions plus the veteran 1 South African Division and Polish Carpathian Bde remained in Eighth British Army Reserve.

The offensive, launched on 12 July 1942 did enjoy air superiority over the main battlefield, but the nine weeks Rommel had to prepare defensive positions was overcome only with great difficulty by XIII British Corps and not at all by XXX British Corps, resulting in the relief of both LTG Neil Ritchie and MG Norrie. Auchinleck takes personal command of Eighth British Army. After eight days of grind, XIII British Corps broke through, and Gott, one of the few British generals temperamentally better suited to a fluid, mobile battlefield routed 90th Light Divisions and the Italian Infantry. X British Corps was then committed to continue and exploit the breakthrough. Once a flank was broken, Rommel could not re-establish a defensive line until Cyrenaica was abandoned. A new position was set in on 28 July 1942 at El Agheila, where the escarpment of the desert restricted movement to a narrow frontage and well beyond Auchinleck’ air and logistical support. Hitler was not impressed, orders equipment turned over to the Italians and German troops of Deutsches Afrika Korps withdrawn to Germany for reconstitution. They are of better use elsewhere. The Luftwaffe provided air transport, and the Italian Navy made available cruisers, destroyers and available fast merchant ships.

A permanent garrison in Sardinia is established by both the Americans and the British. 8th U.S. Cavalry, 131st and 181st U.S. Infantry Regiments are sent to join 107th U.S. IR. The British send 38th (Welsh) Division and 2 Malta Brigade – the latter consisting of three British and two Maltese battalions fluent in Italian. The 1st Free French Infantry Bde under BG Pierre Koenig is also transferred to Sardinia from Libya at some risk during Operation Harpoon, ostensibly as part of the garrison. Two British battalions from 11 Bde (detached from 4 Division) are sent to Pantelleria and one to Lampedusa. Twelfth U.S. Air Force is activated on Sardinia shortly after it is secured, and available airfields packed with arriving aircraft. The RAF contingent is somewhat smaller.

The invasion commences on 5 August 1942. Darlan is informed the night before, and sends orders to Toulon for ships not to be scuttled or for capture to be resisted. He also makes a radio broadcast from Algiers four hours before the landings; announcing himself as Petain’s successor and declaring Vichy French re-entry into the war. V U.S. Corps HQ, transferred from Great Britain is assigned the occupation of Corsica. It contains the 503rd U.S. Parachute Regiment (not sent to Australia), 2nd U.S. Cavalry and 5th U.S. Infantry Divisions (with 3rd U.S. IR transferred from Newfoundland as its third regiment). The paratroopers take the capital and port of Ajaccio to allow the cavalry to land and rapidly secure the mountainous inland. 5th Infantry Division with the attached 751st Tank and 803rd Tank Destroyer (TD) Battalions is to provide muscle in the event of Italian intervention. The elements of the French Corsican Infantry Battalion encountered do not resist. Italian insistence at the Armistice for an easy occupation of Corsica has led to just that. Engineer regiments from Sardinia soon follow.

Under the overall command of GEN Alexander’s 18th Army Group, the American sector is assigned to LTG Eisenhower’s Fifth U.S. Army. The 156th U.S. IR, consisting of French-speaking Louisiana National Guardsmen is assigned the same civil-military mission as the 107th U.S. IR in Sardinia. Each committed U.S. infantry division arrives with a TD Battalion and most with a tank battalion attached. I U.S. Armored Corps leads once again. 7th U.S. ID lands at around St Tropez reinforced by part of CCA/1st U.S. AD. Its mission is to pivot eastward to block any counterattack from Italy. Once ashore they are followed by the 4th U.S. IR (transferred from Alaska – reducing its defenses from seven to six regiments – a calculated risk) and 87th U.S. Mountain Regiment. These two best trained U.S. Army units for Alpine warfare, each with an attached artillery battalion are deployed to strengthen the 7th and 14th French DM respectively. 3rd U.S. ID and CCB/1st U.S. AD arrives at La Seyne and moves to Toulon by nightfall. There is no resistance. The remainder of 1st U.S. AD disembarks at that port followed by 2nd U.S. AD. Patton’s mission is to advance up the Rhone River as far as possible and establish blocking positions. By the end of August, MG Lloyd Fredenhall’s II U.S. Corps with 1st U.S. ID, 9th U.S. ID and 40th U.S. ID disembark to expand Patton’s front north of Bourg En Basse.

Montgomery’s First British Army is also the choice for landings near Marseilles, although its composition is changed somewhat. Force 110 has lost the Special Service Regiment, returned to Great Britain to impart lessons learned. 25 (Army) Tank Brigade has dropped the Army designation and become part of 1 Division – now 1 (Mixed) Division, which in turn has sent the 38 (Irish) Bde to 78 Division. 78 Division’s 6 Commando, 1 Guards and 36 Brigades land to the west and 5 Division’s 1 Commando, 13 and 17 Brigades to the east of Marseilles.

Again Darlan’s orders are generally obeyed, but the Admiral is shocked when the first unit to disembark pierside is BG Koenig’s 1st Free French Infantry Bde, accompanied by BG Charles de Gaulle. Darlan belatedly realizes his negotiating only with the Americans permitted the British to do this, and Churchill is unwilling to allow the Anglophobe Darlan to be the only power broker in liberated France. Darlan has little alternative but to “revoke” the death sentence placed on de Gaulle in 1940. Since it is not needed at Marseilles. Force 110’s reserve afloat, 29 Independent Bde (including 6 Commando) is diverted to the port of Martigues on 6 August; 15 Bde to Sete; and 38 (Irish) Bde to Norbonne to expand the logistical support through these smaller ports. With the Vichy French rail system intact they are soon linked.

V British Corps troops and equipment are then disembarked, primarily through Marseille, the third largest port in France. 1 Mixed and 4 Mixed Divisions (21 Tank Bde replaced 11 Bde) are followed by 46 (Midland and West Riding) Division. As soon as these troops have cleared the port, IX British Corps with 8 Armoured, 3 and 51 (Highland) Divisions arrives and by the end of the month I British Corps with 6 Armoured, 56 (London) and 61 (South Midland) Divisions. Force 110 is then released from 18th Army Group.

The flow of troops continues in September 1942. Fifth U.S. Army is reinforced by VII U.S. Corps containing 4th U.S. AD, 6th and 29th U.S. ID; and IX U.S. Corps consisting of 3rd U.S. AD, 2nd and 43rd U.S. ID from the United States. V U.S. Corps with 5th U.S. ID from Corsica arrives by the end of the month. 15th Army Group is activated with Eisenhower promoted to command it. LTG Walter Kruger, formerly commander of Third U.S. Army replaces him at Fifth U.S. Army and retains II and IX U.S. Corps. I U.S. Armored Corps HQ is expanded to Seventh U.S. Army, its 1st U.S. AD transferring to II U.S. Corps, and 2nd U.S. AD, 3rd and 7th ID to V U.S. Corps. V and VII U.S. Corps remain under Patton.

The Second British Army replaces Fifth U.S. Army in Alexander’s 18th Army Group; commanded by LTG Bernard Paget, not a favorite of FM Alan Brooke the CIDS, but current commander of the Home Army and most responsible for training the British Army for its return to the continent. Paget receives XII British Corps with 9 Armoured, 43 (Wessex) Mixed and 15 (Scottish) Divisions; and VIII British Corps with 11 Armoured, 53 (Welsh) Mixed and 59 (Staffordshire) Divisions. In the last week of September personnel from the independent French tank battalions and companies in North Africa arrive to form 1st French AD followed by 2nd Moroccan Division.

Two weeks after the assault in Vichy France the Canadians arrive at Dieppe, but this is no raid, the Canadians have come to stay. This is primarily driven by political considerations, both the Canadian Government and the Commander of First Canadian Army LTG Andrew McNaughton desire that Canadian troops fight under their own, not British Command. Secondly, a successful bridgehead in Northern France will make it impossible for German reinforcements to reach Western France and ease Montgomery’s capture of Bordeaux and St Nazaire the second largest and largest ports in France; as well as the submarine bases at La Rochelle, Lorient and Brest. Once Le Havre, sixth largest port is captured First Canadian Army can be sustained, especially with short overnight convoys from British ports. Dieppe is also within fighter cover, and 66 RAF fighter squadrons will be committed to the operation, as well as first priority from bomber units.

The three existing RN LSTs are committed to Dieppe carrying tanks of 1 Canadian (Army) Tank Bde which backs the assault of 3 and 4 Commando leading the entire 2 Canadian Division ashore (and not just a single brigade) on 19 August 1942. 168th U.S. IR from 34th U.S. ID with a Ranger Battalion formed from the division lands to the west of the Canadians. 1 Parachute Bde (five battalions), 1 Air Landing Bde (four battalions) from 1 Airborne Division and the six combat-ready companies of 1st Independent Polish Airborne Bde are used in pre-dawn assaults on Luftwaffe Airfields. There is unexpected bloody resistance from 302nd Static Division for four days before Dieppe is secured, but the remainder of II Canadian Corps, 34 U.S. ID, 3 Canadian Division and 2 Canadian (Army) Tank Bde muscle their way ashore. 34th U.S. ID captures additional ports including St Valery and Fecamp, but short of Le Havre is badly man-handled by the battle group strength 2nd SS Pzr “Das Reich” Division and 106th Infantry Division.

As airfields in France become operational, fighter units move to France, greatly increasing loiter time. In late August, 2 Canadian (Army) Tank Bde and its lumbering Canadian-built Valentine X tanks finally break through to Le Havre, but only after German engineers have done three weeks damage to the port. This delayed the full arrival of I Canadian Corps with 5 Canadian Armoured, 1 and 4 Canadian Divisions until third week of September and the build-up of supplies necessary for a breakout until six weeks later. The lodgment however, is secure.

At this point some commentary is in order. First, the number of divisions in France two months after the invasion of Vichy France compares favorably to the number in Normandy two months after D-Day. There are nine armored divisions in 1942 and ten in 1944. There are four Mixed Divisions and two tank brigades in 1942, compared to three and one 1944. There is one airborne division equivalent in 1942, and three in 1944. 22 Infantry divisions in 1942 compares well with 20 in Normandy.

A second consideration is the rapid influx of Lend-Lease into France rather than the USSR. Between January of 1943 and July 1945 the amount of material sent to Russia alone is staggering. 14,795 aircraft, 7,056 tanks, 375,883 trucks, 8,071 tractors, 8,218 artillery pieces, 1,981 locomotives and 11,155 freight cars are an adequate sample not to mention over 100 million tons of raw material and foodstuffs. Accepting that some Lend-Lease will continue through Iran and in Soviet ships to Vladivostok, there is still a massive amount available to rearm European armies as their counties are liberated. This does not include Lend-Lease already allocated, or British and Canadian Lend-Lease to the USSR; just the amount diverted from Russia by a Second Front. Most decisive is the diversion of trucks, rail transport and other logistical support. This will slow the advance of the Red Army on the Eastern Front.

The third consideration is the steep decline of the U-boat threat to Great Britain after December of 1942. Indeed, it is probable that U-boat construction will be scaled back tremendously to allow greater production of tanks, artillery and aircraft. However, the saving of perhaps 7,000,000 tons or more of merchant shipping and thousands of lives not only reduces the economic cost of the war to Great Britain but is worth the cost in military life. Many of the British Commonwealth casualties in Vichy France would otherwise have been suffered in North Africa or Italy anyway.

The probable reaction of the Italian Government is to seek an armistice, as it has no stomach for lengthy combat on its own soil. The Italians are in a better negotiating position in 1942 than in 1943. The Germans are already evacuating North Africa, and no doubt troops in Sicily will follow. The stage is set by having Italian troops advance until in contact with U.S. and French troops, which signals the difficulty of a two-front campaign in France. It also deceives the Germans. The Armistice is easier to negotiate with few Germans on Italian soil. Secondly, the Allied strategy is Germany first. They are snuggled up in bed with the mass murderer Josef Stalin and were willing to deal with the neo-Fascist Darlan to further that aim; so a deal with other Fascists in Rome is not beyond the pale. The Italian proposals are carried by three captured British generals, Richard O’Conner, Philip Neame and Michael Gambier-Perry who are allowed to “escape” across the Italian lines to troops of 7th U.S. ID. Thereafter secret negotiations are conducted in the Vatican by diplomats beyond German eyes.

The terms are quick and simple, with most issues deferred until after the war. Italy will not join the Allied side. German troops still in Italy will be secretly allowed to leave instead of being interned. There is an immediate release of Allied POWs in Italian custody. A cease-fire in place will begin. The Italians will maintain order in territories occupied after September 1939, and to withdraw their troops from other conquered zones as soon as competent native or Allied troops arrive to take control. Once compliance with the turnover of Italian territories begins, repatriation of Italian POWs will commence and the Allied blockade of Italy will be lifted.

The Armistice is announced on 3 September 1942, and Italian troops begin withdrawing from territory in France occupied in 1940. The same day, 29 Independent Bde lands at Heraklion on the island of Crete, uncertain whether the Armistice will hold. The 51st Siena Division retained its arms but did not impede or resist the landings which left the Fortress Brigade Krete isolated in Western Crete. The next day, 26 Australian Bde disembarked followed by 2 New Zealand Division as Suvla Bay was captured. The German garrison fought until ammunition was exhausted before surrendering on 11 September.

Three days previously, 5 Division disembarked in the Peloponnesus including both sides of the Corinth Canal. The 59th Cagliari, 36th Forli and 37th Modena Divisions did not resist as they were encountered, but the ardent pro-Mussolini commander of the 11th Brennero Division north of Athens took part of his command and joined the 11th Luftwaffe Division. Despite this, the Luftwaffe ground crews hastily converted to infantry a few months previously were no match for the veteran 5 Division, and by 14 September the port of Piraeus was secured. The Greek Sacred Mountain Regiment and 1st Greek Brigade began arriving to take over internal security duties in the capital.

On 15 September, 78 Division landed near Salonika, but the 7th SS “Prinz Eugen” Mountain Division had reinforced the German garrison troops, and Italian units retreated from the German’s path. Consequently all three British brigades received a hot reception and an emergency reinforcement by 4 Malta Bde was also decimated. Luftwaffe units also sank the destroyers HMS Intrepid, Eclipse, Puckeridge and the Greek Spetsai and a dozen supply ships. The RN was reduced to transporting supplies by submarine to avoid shipping losses. It was not until 26 October when elements of XIII British Corps began arriving from Athens that the Germans withdrew. However, PM Churchill now had a foothold on the “soft underbelly of Europe.” It did make strategic sense. It threatened the German supply of oil from Romania and allowed the huge British supply system in the Middle East to be of continued use.

The initial German reaction was limited. Although the seed corn of 2nd SS Pzr “Das Reich” Division was thrown away – the division would require nine months to be rebuilt; 7th, 26th and 27th Pzr were not. All withdrew to safe locations in German to complete formation. Panzer Korps Sizilien was transferred in a remarkable fortnight, arriving the day after the Dieppe landings to face the threat from Patton’s troops. In another incredible organizational feat that perhaps only the German Army could perform, the troops of Afrika Korps returned to Germany, married up with replacements and equipment straight from training units and factories and arrived in Eastern France to join Rommel’s new Panzer Army. Other than this the German cupboard was rather bare.

The 38th Infantry Division’s scheduled transfer to LXXXIII Korps is expedited, as is 39th Infantry Division to LXXXV Korps; and 376th Infantry Division is diverted from Russia – all by mid-August. The 165th Replacement Division retains its trainees and absorbs others to arrive in mid-September, and the 416th Infantry Division organized in Denmark a week later. By this time, the Balkans is taking other new formations. The Germans form a defensive line along the Loire River, which the Allies cannot contest with forces available at the end of September.

I have no doubt that German troops will inflict local Kassarine Pass-type defeats on the Americans. U.S. Army Tank Destroyer Doctrine will still prove a dismal failure, and the number of TD Battalions planned will be reduced in favor of additional tank battalions. The need for dozens of cavalry groups to improve reconnaissance capabilities will be exposed. A specialized Ninth Air Force dedicated to ground attack will still be needed. But the Americans will prove to be quick learners.

The betrayal of Italy enraged Hitler, who broke diplomatic relations and sent a Commando Force to liberate Mussolini from captivity. Mussolini attempted to rally Italian garrisons in Croatia, Dalmatia and Montenegro with little success.

Hitler is still convinced (correctly) that the war will be decided in the East and not the West. If Case Blue succeeds, and Russia is rendered impotent through lack of fuel, then the Western Allies can be dealt with later. Besides, the transport system in Russia is so inadequate that the millions of tons of fuel, ammunition, engineering equipment, rations and other supplies cannot rapidly be transferred to the West. Russia may be starved for reinforcements, but will not be reduced by transfers. Initially it looks as if Hitler’s gamble may pay off. On 4 August Sixth German Army crosses the Don at Kalachi and in nine days causes 150,000 Russian casualties. On 23 August the city of Stalingrad is entered. The bitter urban combat commences, but to the south Fourth German Panzer Army continues to rack up operational and tactical successes. Then in mid-September, the window for victory closes.

On 16 September, the Romanian Government notifies the German High Command that its troops must withdraw from Russia to defend against successful British landings in Greece. The next day, Fourth German Panzer Army reports that it has reached the end of its logistical tether, and will not advance to the Caspian Sea. Eleventh German Army cannot continue on against stiffening Russian resistance with its flank exposed. Finally, on 20 September 192, GEN Friedrich von Paulus reports his Army cannot complete the capture of Stalingrad without massive reinforcement. Hitler, in a rare moment of clarity and lucid judgment faces the inevitable.

Case Blue is abandoned. Army Group South is ordered to withdraw behind the Don River with the exception of Rostov, which is retained. The shortening of the lines will allow the Romanians to be replaced and ease the logistical overstretch. The Don River is a formidable obstacle, and in-depth fortifications can be developed behind it. The Ukraine itself cannot be abandoned. The Germans have invested a year in retooling its factories, refineries, mines and labor force to serve the Reich. The Ukraine is the Lebensraum of Nazi ideology. It must be retained.

This strategic withdrawal does allow for the Allied threat from France and Greece to be resisted. The invasion of Vichy France has been deceptively easy. There remains a long hard road to Berlin.

As always, comments, dissenting views, queries etc. are always welcome.


Monthly Donor
Roundup/Sledgehammer in 1943
There wasn't an Atlantic Wall, just the Channels Islands had any real defenses at this point

It would be as successful as D-Day, as the Germans would be unable to dislodge even the underequipped British and US Troops, being so busy in Russia.
Less successful in the future, as the Breakout would take much longer, and France would be wrecked far more with fighting
Need Air Supremacy. Bomber Command, 8th Air Force, and, especially the P-51 wasn't up to the task in 1943. That doesn't even begin to cover the fact that there was insufficient 'Phib lift and trained men to make it work.
Or to put it simply most of the forces for an 1942 assault would be mostly British and the said no pretty strongly. Not to mention the Germans won't need that many forces to defend Cherbourg which the allies planned to assault. Brooke did it with a Brigade in 1940. Cherbourg was considered the best place to attack but could be easy be contained by a relatively small force. Some of the German forces in Tunisia came from France including a Panzer Division . Another thing is that if the allies do get stuck they don't have many options.
Need Air Supremacy. Bomber Command, 8th Air Force, and, especially the P-51 wasn't up to the task in 1943. That doesn't even begin to cover the fact that there was insufficient 'Phib lift and trained men to make it work.
Why wouldn't the P-51B work?
you're covering the French Coast, not Berlin, and I believe that I made the point that you would need to rob most of the PTO to do it, but hey, 'Germany First'
and you don't need to bomb Germany to Rubble first.
is that if the allies do get stuck they don't have many options.
Far easier for the Allies to run supplies in, and within weeks, the Allies will be able to base fighters and attack aicraft.
They are doing their job, tying up German forces that would be causing trouble elsewhere, the whole reason for Op Roundup


Monthly Donor
Why wouldn't the P-51B work?
you're covering the French Coast, not Berlin, and I believe that I made the point that you would need to rob most of the PTO to do it, but hey, 'Germany First'
and you don't need to bomb Germany to Rubble first.
Far easier for the Allies to run supplies in, and within weeks, the Allies will be able to base fighters and attack aicraft.
They are doing their job, tying up German forces that would be causing trouble elsewhere, the whole reason for Op Roundup
The key to gaining air supremacy wasn't having fighters or fighter bombers over the landing beaches, although that was a critical element of the Overlord plan (effectively what we call AirLand Battle today) it was destroying the Luftwaffe and degrading the Reich's ability to produce new aircraft, Avgas, and drive what single engine fighter aircraft and twin engine dual use (e.g. Me-110) the Luftwaffe had left back into Inner Germany to defend the Reich. Only way to do all of that was the CBO; in the Spring/summer of 1943 the U.S. hadn't really hit full stride in either aircraft production or in pilot training, it was getting there, but the real flood wasn't quite there.