WI: Rommel was right about Malta

All,

Rommel was not too keen on invading Malta as he saw that as a diversion of his forces> Further he claimed that by going full speed on Egypt with what he had, he could take Egypt up to Cairo in one big dash.

Malta could (according to Rommel) be sufficiently suppressed to ensure that he had enough of everything.

With Egypt gone, Malta could be dealt with in a less frantic manner.

It did not go totally as planned.

Here is the big question:

1) Could Rommel be right? was the battle that much in the balance that it could have been won by Rommel
2) Maybe not all the way to Cairo, but at least taking Alexandria
3) If there would be a stalemate past Alexandria - or even at the Nile - it might not impact the Russian offensives, but it would surely disrupt the oil flow to Britain
4) Consequences for Britain? US intervention?

Yours,
 
Rommels logistics meant that he was going to over run his supplies sooner or later well before he got to Alexandria.

Even if he did not perhaps the Egyptian government would have dropped their neutrality if key Egyptian cities were threatened which would add a decently large army to the british forces.
 
Rommel seems to have treated logistics (from a strategic POV) as someone else's problem

Also he was the DAK commander not the theatre commander so while he might have had an opinion the decision regarding Malta would be made at a higher level than he.
 
1) Could Rommel be right? was the battle that much in the balance that it could have been won by Rommel
2) Maybe not all the way to Cairo, but at least taking Alexandria
3) If there would be a stalemate past Alexandria - or even at the Nile - it might not impact the Russian offensives, but it would surely disrupt the oil flow to Britain
4) Consequences for Britain? US intervention?
1. No. Logistics were always going to kill Rommel somewhere to the west of the Nile. Rommel didn't worry about logistics, regarding that as a matter for quartermasters. In a situation like North Africa, with logistics being even more of an issue given the paucity of supply lines, that's a bit of a problem.

2. Which begs the question, so what? Alexandria falls. And then?

3. Why would it disrupt oil flow to Britain? Oil was coming across the Atlantic from the Americas, or from the Persian Gulf around the Cape of Good Hope. For self-evident reasons, Britain didn't send convoys through the Suez Canal into the Med. Taking Alexandria would result in zero disruption to British supply lines.

4. Since at the time Rommel was closest to getting to Alex, the USA had already been in the war for a year, I don't think it's going to make that much difference to US intervention. If you're talking about Rommel taking Alex prior to December 1941, good luck.
 
It's tricky. Even after chasing Eighth Army all the way back to Alamein after Gazala, the British were only on the back foot at First Alamein for about 48 hours, and only on the first day of the battle did Rommel see much success.
 
Rommels logistics meant that he was going to over run his supplies sooner or later well before he got to Alexandria.Even if he did not perhaps the Egyptian government would have dropped their neutrality if key Egyptian cities were threatened which would add a decently large army to the british forces.
If German forces reached the Nile Delta, Egypt would join the Axis. King Farouk pledged as much.
 
All,

Rommel was not too keen on invading Malta as he saw that as a diversion of his forces> Further he claimed that by going full speed on Egypt with what he had, he could take Egypt up to Cairo in one big dash.

Malta could (according to Rommel) be sufficiently suppressed to ensure that he had enough of everything.

With Egypt gone, Malta could be dealt with in a less frantic manner.

It did not go totally as planned.

Here is the big question:

1) Could Rommel be right? was the battle that much in the balance that it could have been won by Rommel
2) Maybe not all the way to Cairo, but at least taking Alexandria
3) If there would be a stalemate past Alexandria - or even at the Nile - it might not impact the Russian offensives, but it would surely disrupt the oil flow to Britain
4) Consequences for Britain? US intervention?

Yours,
Malta gave the RAF and RN a base able to interdict his supply lines. 830 sqn did a real number on Axis convoys for example. The island itself was a tough proposition with troops and installations literally dug into the rock.

After Crete the Luftwaffe was never really able to conduct largescale para and glider landings after losing so many trained personnel in Crete. The Italians were not really in any shape to conduct large scale naval operations to force a landing and Cunningham would have loved the Italians to sortie.
 
Rommel was not in control of the sea routes to N.Africa.

Was he then right in claiming that logistics was someone else's problem? Of course it would have been an idea to look at what was available for him, but in essence: it was not his responsibility.

It was sort of a matter of: give me the things and I will give you Egypt.

Malta could have been invaded in 1940. 1941 was still possible. 1942 was a different matter.

So if Rommel looked at what it would require to do Malta in 1942, maybe he was right in saying that he should take on Egypt with what he had.

If Alexandria falls, the Eastern Med cannot be defended.

On US: If Torch is not possible, then US cannot find any other European battle field can easily be found. Wil they go for Japan? probably not, but serious consideration would be applied to: what next?

Overlord in 1943 would still not be an option.

Of course it hinges on one thing: Did Rommel have enough to get to Alexandria in 1942, without looking at Malta?
 
Since at the time Rommel was closest to getting to Alex, the USA had already been in the war for a year, I don't think it's going to make that much difference to US intervention.
Post Gazala, the US considered sending an armoured division to Egypt. IIRC Patton recommended sending an armoured Corps with himself in command. OTL they sent 300 Shermans instead; another British loss might have tempted US generals to commit ground forces.
 
it still begs the question? Did Rommel have enough to get past El Alamein?

It is correct as David states that logistics will be Rommel's downfall. But how fast?
 
1. No. Logistics were always going to kill Rommel somewhere to the west of the Nile. Rommel didn't worry about logistics, regarding that as a matter for quartermasters. In a situation like North Africa, with logistics being even more of an issue given the paucity of supply lines, that's a bit of a problem.

2. Which begs the question, so what? Alexandria falls. And then?

3. Why would it disrupt oil flow to Britain? Oil was coming across the Atlantic from the Americas, or from the Persian Gulf around the Cape of Good Hope. For self-evident reasons, Britain didn't send convoys through the Suez Canal into the Med. Taking Alexandria would result in zero disruption to British supply lines.

4. Since at the time Rommel was closest to getting to Alex, the USA had already been in the war for a year, I don't think it's going to make that much difference to US intervention. If you're talking about Rommel taking Alex prior to December 1941, good luck.
I agree with pretty much all of this, with two small caveats.

1. It is possible to imagine even worse British military performance in the desert than to date and this could have let Rommel into the delta. I would emphasis that this would need British performance so bad that Rommel was basically unopposed and driving in a straight line. This was pretty unlikely.

3. I agree, except that by 1942 mid east oil mostly stayed in the region or went East, saving on shipping as Britain imported from the Americas, so the position was even better than you suggest

Rommel advancing further in 1942 is unlikely to have any significant effects. His poor logistics would remain an issue as there were no critical targets within range. The British would continue their build up in the region. Torch would go ahead only now Rommel has further to retreat and it is possible the axis armies might not be able to unite in Tunisia. The only thing that might change is this is the diversion of significant air power and logistical support from the Russian campaign., which would have many repercussions.

The same argument applies in 1941, significant further advance is only possible at the expense of Barbarossa.
 
The resource use for Crete can at less take Malta onetime
Malta will be worse if anything. Remember, the Fallschirmjager were dropped only with pistols and knives thanks to their poor parachute design, all their other weapons came down in another bundle. Now on Crete this wasn't a problem, as there was plenty of room to regroup, but Malta is much smaller (only ~316 km^2), so there won't be room to regroup, and half their weapons are likely to end up in the defenders' hands.

Those forces can take Malta, or they can take Crete, but not both.
 
it still begs the question? Did Rommel have enough to get past El Alamein?

It is correct as David states that logistics will be Rommel's downfall. But how fast?
Yes, Rommel had more than enough to get past El Alamein - if the British commanders messed up yet again. How likely that is is a matter of some debate, depending on which British commanders are in charge and how they are viewed by the debaters.

Logistics will never be a problem for Rommel as long as he has Allied supply dumps available to keep capturing. There's an account (in the Chapter 'Alam Halfa - The End', in Nigel Hamilton's biography of Montgomery) of Montgomery showing Wendell Wilkie around the Alam Halfa battlefield (edit: as the battle wound down) and all the supplies and food in the wrecks of German vehicles which were British supplies and food the Germans had captured at Tobruk.
 
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Malta could have been invaded in 1940. 1941 was still possible. 1942 was a different matter.
Although Malta could not be invaded in 1942 it would have been forced to surrender between 31st August and 7th September 1942 if the Pedestal Convoy hadn't got through. That is if this extract from Malta Convoy by Peter Shankland and Anthony Hunter, first published 1963 is to be believed.
CHAPTER THREE

TARGET DATE "SURRENDER"

I

A secret date for Malta's capitulation had been calculated from month to month by General Dobbie, the Governor and after him Lord Gort, and by a committee consisting of the Deputy Governor, Sir Edward Jackson and the chiefs of the three services.

This involved no complicated evaluation of circumstances; it depended simply on how long vital stocks of flour, fuel oil, kerosene and, to a lesser extent petrol and anti-aircraft ammunition would last.

When these were exhausted the Island and all upon it would have to surrender.

The question of evacuating the Island, even by the troops defending it, never arose to a practical proposition because the means to do so did not exist after January 1942, and also because at no time had such plans been made.

So it was that when the fleet and the convoy of "Operation Pedestal" sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar on the 10th August, the "Target Date," as it was called, by which capitulation would have been forced on the military commands by a breakdown of food and fuel supplies, lay between 31st August and the 7th September, unless a fair proportion of the convoy's cargo could be unloaded at Malta.

Further delay in surrendering would have meant widespread death from starvation among the quarter of a million Maltese civilians, the 18,000 regular troops and the 8,000 Maltese serving with the colours on the Island.

All depended upon this operation. If it had failed it would have been impossible to arrange another convoy in time; and even if a small part of "Pedastal," say only two ships, had won through, it is still doubtful whether it would have been feasible to arrange another before starvation compelled the defenders to strike the Union Jack from the Residency, where it had flow defiantly for so many difficult and dangerous months.

That Malta's plight was desperate at this time is common property, though the narrow margin by which it was saved was known only to the few immediately concerned with the Island's defence and to the leaders of the British war effort at this time. Why no excavation had ever been considered and why no attempt to save so many seasoned troops and valuable material had been planned is, however, something of a historical mystery.
Pages 50 and 51​
 
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After Crete the Luftwaffe was never really able to conduct largescale para and glider landings after losing so many trained personnel in Crete. The Italians were not really in any shape to conduct large scale naval operations to force a landing and Cunningham would have loved the Italians to sortie.
Nonsense. They just never ordered it again due to the fear of heavy losses like that again (same as in the Netherlands in 1940). The day of the division level drop was basically over for the Axis despite standing up an Italian para division to invade Malta in 1942 (ultimately used as an infantry division). Even though the Allies did their's in 1944 like the Soviets they learned that it was basically not really all that useful all things considered and stopped using doing them after WW2. Then at most I think there was a regimental non-combat drop in Korea.

Malta will be worse if anything. Remember, the Fallschirmjager were dropped only with pistols and knives thanks to their poor parachute design, all their other weapons came down in another bundle. Now on Crete this wasn't a problem, as there was plenty of room to regroup, but Malta is much smaller (only ~316 km^2), so there won't be room to regroup, and half their weapons are likely to end up in the defenders' hands.
It's more complicated than that. The 'chutes were designed to be very quick opening to allow for a low drop and prevent scatter as well as hang time in which the enemy can prepare for your landing and shoot you during descent, but if you do that you can't really carry much with you in the drop. It's a trade off. Not a problem as much during the Netherlands drop, but a problem in Crete due to all the unexpected resistance on the ground. People tend to forget the reason that Crete was such a mess was that the Luftwaffe (but not the Heer for some reason, which they didn't share) had poor intel about the forces on Crete, so thought they could do multiple surprise drops on targets and overwhelm defenders, who being weak and demoralized, would be quickly overcome. That turned out not to be the case in the slightest and they paid for it.

Had they had better intel and dropped off target, gotten organized, and marched to their objectives they'd have avoided the bloodbath at the airfields.

Given the 'chute design and low drop ability it is unlikely that the paras would scatter as badly as you think on Malta unless they were literally dropping on top of the defenders.
 
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I am not sure why it is nonsense, it takes time to train paratroops to throw themselves out of a perfectly good aircraft AND to do all the combat stuff on the ground, Malta was not a friendly place for gliders either as lots of small fields and rocks everywhere. As for there being no Divisional drops post WW2, there were no real opportunities. The terrain in Korea excluding the coastal plains were not really conducive to large scale para drops and only the US could have done this and subsequent wars didn't really offer opportunities or a need for divisional para insertion, to my mind the only proposed operation would have SOUTHCOM divisional paratroops inserting into the Gulf to defend against a Soviet attack post Afghanistan or whatever the Russians cooked up for WW3.
 
Even though the Allies did their's in 1944 like the Soviets they learned that it was basically not really all that useful all things considered and stopped using doing them after WW2. Then at most I think there was a regimental non-combat drop in Korea.
Actually, 173rd Airborne Brigade dropped almost 1,000 men onto an airfield in Iraq in March, 2003 to serve as blocking force to stop retreating Iraqi divisions. And the 75th Ranger Regiment has also made a few drops with one in Afghanistan numbering 200 men.
 
I feel Rommel is getting a lot of stick over logistics which is not deserved.

During WW2, practically all German operations were logistically impaired. Certainly when compared to Allied operations which operated on a far more lavish logistical scale.



Many operations on the Eastern Front in 1941-1943 had similar lack of preparation/supply but many were quite successful.



Part of this was IMO a systematic acceptance in the Wehrmacht that Germany would never have sufficient supplies for a methodical campaign or heaven forbid a war of attrition and thus relied on heavy blows to end campaigns quickly. So logistical requirements were given less attention than allied armies would normally do.



Secondly was Rommel’s assessment of the allies. His papers etc. seem to indicate that he fully appreciated their industrial superiority and that he believed that he could only compete with them by keeping them off balance and keeping the pressure on. Every time he allowed a period of rest and recuperation, he would receive much needed reinforcements but the allies would receive much more tanks, men and aircraft.



Waiting for Malta to be neutralized would likely allow the British to build up an unstoppable superiority in tanks and men and even if Malta was eliminated and promised supplies arrived, Rommel would still only be commanding a reinforced panzer corps with some semi-mobile Italian divisions attached against much strong Allied forces.



Simply put, he was never going to win a methodical, logistically sound campaign against the Allies because they had the greater resources. His only chance was to keep kicking them and hope he could capture enough supplies to keep going.
 
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