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  1. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to ASL Veteran in Fire and Rubble Update   
    I decided to try and dig up my first hand accounts - here is part of one
  2. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to slysniper in Trying to use real world tactics   
    Well the size of the battle does have a great impact on what type of tactics might be used.
    But it really comes down to the amount of troops in a given area as to how scouting and probes are to be used.
    But no matter what, scouting is a art in every battle, For most CM battles, it might not be sneaking through enemy lines, but I have found a few where I have done just that.
    For most, its more of being the lead point, finding out the hard way where the enemy is, being shot at and possible killed , to allow the main group to not be ambushed  and to learn safely where enemy forces are located.
  3. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to mjkerner in Trying to use real world tactics   
    Do you mean "A War Without Mercy"? I think it's an original FB scenario. I have it in my scenarios and assume it has always been there.
  4. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Lethaface in Trying to use real world tactics   
    Some poker skills also come in handy. If a player, after a while, suddenly begins an 'information war' it is probably an indication that his forces are weakened or he is worried about something you might do for which he doesn't have an appropriate answer on the field. So he (or she) will try to achieve it using other means. 
    Another thing which is imo, helpful, is to not focus too much on the objectives. Of course they decide the winner in the end, but if you focus on destroying the enemies force the objectives often come included.
    Not attacking strength is also a good reminder; if something doesn't work, don't just throw more resources at the problem but check if you can apply those resources with more effect somewhere else (ideally on a flank, etc). That's a mistake I've made more than once in the past and I guess I have learned from it a bit.
    At the same time strength is a relative thing.
    I'm currently playing the huge 'No mercy in war' CMFB scenario (in heavy fog) against @BletchleyGeek. It's still ongoing but I can share some insights.
    Having almost a full Combat Command under my command on such a big map, I decided on a enveloping approach with a breakthrough allowing me to approach an important town from several sides at the same time.
    I massed a company+ of tanks with infantry support for the breakthrough. Recon showed I faced a number of Hetzers defending a railroad intersecting the map and offering a natural line of defense.  Thinking I had the numbers to defeat his Hetzers frontally, I tried dueling a bit. However the Hetzers showed to be quite able to bounce frontal shots fired from ~250m (even 76mm to my surprise). So the trading wasn't going in a way I thought favorable for my forces (I lost around 10 tanks (light/medium) for ~3 Hetzers, although other Hetzers were supposedly damaged from bouncing shots).
    So, there I was faced with the decision how to continue the attack. The right flank of the Hetzer line is covered by at least one AT gun, probably more (the briefing says something about it too). The left flank is a large town. I'm already engaged there with mainly infantry and while progress is good, I guess I've yet to come into contact the main defenses.
    Also, pushing so much tanks through a town is not necessarily a good idea in my book. Still, it is where my advance was meeting the least resistance.
    Doubling down on the Hetzer line felt like 'attacking strength' or 'reinforcing failure', however what to do with my small Tank Battalion if not breaking through? 🤔
    The 'weak' point of the Hetzer is that it lacks a turret. So the idea formed to rush some light tanks across his Hetzer line, forcing them to turn their attention while pressing the attack along most of his Hetzer line, using the bulk of the tanks and supporting infantry (basically going from cautious stance to very aggressive).
    And probably why I'm writing this ;-), it worked!   One light tank was lost racing across the line but another made it and forced the Hetzers to take evasive action upon which they were taken out. I lost a couple of more tanks due to the Hetzers and PanzerSchreck teams laying in ambush, but overall the trading was this time successful and breakthrough achieved. This allows me to roll up his Hetzer line (although that's sort of still ongoing).
    All in all I thought it was a nice example of how 'strength' can be a relative thing and that there are more ways of attacking the weakness. Without the fog, the huge map and the vast amount of tanks under my command this would probably not have worked. 
    However, using the mobility of Stuarts allows negating certain strengths / exploting the Hetzers weakness. Also I was thinking that the gun stabilizer on the Sherman might also give me the advantage in a mobile tank duel.
    And, when does one get the chance to press the attack with what amounts to a small Tank Battalion 🙂. Great map and can sure recommend playing a huge battle in PBEM. While it does require quite the effort and time per turn, the payoff is certainly there. 
  5. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to General Jack Ripper in Trying to use real world tactics   
    I use my match against BletchleyGeek as an example. I threw all my remaining forces at him in a very costly and ultimately fruitless counterattack, all with the intention of getting him to agree to a ceasefire under favorable terms for me. Result? Many casualties, but I squeaked by with a minor victory.
    Now that probably wouldn't sit well to your average "fight to the last man/bullet!" player. But in this case it worked fine.
    Sublime also did the same thing to me in our match. He convinced me I couldn't win by appearing to be strong everywhere, yet after I agreed to a ceasefire, it turned out he only had about half a platoon left, and I could have crushed him without too much trouble.
  6. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Combatintman in Fire and Rubble Update   
    It all comes down to practice.  I don't really know how it all works - I always talk about vision if you're going to design anything.  For that one, I wanted to do something snowy and big and when I saw the ground and had a bite-size account of the action from one of the Osprey OOB books, I thought 'yes that would be a good map and situation.'  I enjoy making maps (you have to when they're that sort of size).  After that I knew how the bits would fit together.  The drama, as always was the testing.
    I hope you will enjoy my Fire and Rubble stuff ...
  7. Like
    BletchleyGeek got a reaction from Lethaface in Fire and Rubble Update   
    Cheers John - I am the kind of guy who is happy with a ballpark figure
  8. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    Deserted, captures were probably returned, and I imagine quite a few were lost in the Alpine forests and hillsides in the snowdrifts, dying from exposure. 

    Here's a map from Wikipedia's extremely detailed page on the invasion. The Piccolo San Bernardino (Little Saint Bernard) is the pass 4th Army is facing into. And as you can see, it happened to be one of the most heavily defended routes. Italian "Divisions" as we know, are being referred to as Divisions on this map but in fact they're more like Brigade groups. While the French look completely screwed, as we read appearances can be deceiving. The French Divisions are full strength, and the Alpine troops were crack formations. Forts overlook all of the favorable routes and the Bernard pass was guarded by the infamous Fort de la Redoute, which was in fact several forts built in the vicinity of an old Napoleonic fort. 
    Bourg St Maurice (savoie-fortifications.com)
    Map of the full position (website is in French). The Italians never knew about most of the sites, and bad weather thwarted reconnaissance. 
  9. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    The Other Battle of France.
    Despite having spent over 70 years studying the border, Italian Generals and military minds proved remarkably unimaginative over their plans for an invasion of south France. Most plans settled on an attack through the passes through the Corniche and Colle di Tenda and advancing to establish a line on the Rhone river, but few details more specific than those items were considered. Nothing at all was considered after reaching the Rhone. In 1928 the French had begun work on the Ligne Maginot Alpine series of fortifications along the border. These fortifications were much less dense than those on the Maginot Line proper, but were well concealed. The French had guessed the potential invasion routes correctly and consequently much of the defense was oriented at the routes the Italians planned on invading through. 
    In March 1940 Graziani posted general order PR 12, which noted the possibility of offensive action through the Alps toward Albertville and Annecy, but mainly emphasized a defensive stance. 4th Army HQ considered but never followed through with a request for the Bersagliari to study an attack through the Piccolo san Bernardino pass. At the end of May Graziani put PR 12 into effect and Mussolini added up his personal command that Army Group West (consisting of 1st and 4th Armies) remain on the defensive and not push the border under any circumstances. Yet Army Commanders were also asked to study potential offensive plans "under favorable circumstances" from increasingly confusing communiques from Rome. 
    1st Army HQ produced a plan for an attack Colle della Maddalena which was very conventional in design, but Graziani preferred the plan drawn up by 4th Army HQ for an attack through the San Bernarndino pass north, especially since it emphasized speed and maneuver which was closer to Fascist preference. Wildly optimistic assumptions were made about moving motorized and armored divisions through a cart track and that the Regia Aeronautica would have trouble knocking out the forts at Bourg-en-Bresse that guarded the pass. 
    On June 10th Italy declared war on France. While German troops entered Paris a few days later and the Third Republic began to collapse, Italian troops were told to begin conducting small unit-action attacks against French positions on the frontier. General Roatta was instructed to take on deployments necessary for advances through the Colle della Maddalena and Piccolo San Bernardino passes, now fully jettisoning the defensive-elements of PR 12. French patrols were spotted probing the Italian side of the border and in some retaliations some prisoners were taken by the Italians. When Marshall Petain became leader and began agitating for a for an armistice Mussolini interpreted this as the sign of total capitulation he'd been hoping for and pushed Graziani to go on the offensive-which he was enthusiastically agreed to. 
    Furious that Germany might agree to cease hostilities with France before he had been able to cleave anything for himself, Mussolini disregarded warnings about the challenges his troops faced attacking through the Alps. On June 23rd, just as the Italian offensive was getting underway-Mussolini was invited by Hitler to attend a conference discussing French surrender terms. Mussolini showed up at Munich with a huge wish list of items Hitler was completely unwilling to grant any of. They included items such as Italian occupation of the French naval base in Oran (Mers-el-Kebir), Casablanca, Corsica, Tunisia, and the handover of the French Fleet.
    Hitler was not prepared to entertain any of these demands, worried that putting too much pressure on Marshall Petain would lead to his government fleeing to North Africa. Ciano got the impression that Germany was looking for a peaceful settlement with England, and began to realize that there unlikely to be joint German-Italian negotiations with the French. When informed Mussolini only got more greedy. Now he wanted all of Algeria and Egypt to become Italian client states too. 
    As the Offensive against France got underway the Italian's strategy rapidly collapsed into chaos. Roatta received calls from both Army's HQs that neither one of them would be ready to conduct their advances on time, with Guzzoni stating he also needed an armored division and an engineer battalion. Mussolini was informed of this and briefly considered allowing Army Group West to delay, but once he heard the Germans had reach Lyon he changed his mind again and commanded them forward. 
    Petain had ordered French troops to stop fighting, but the local French Commanders decided to disobey the Marshall's orders and agreed to stand and fight. The remaining elements of the French Army were enraged by the Italian stab-in-the-back and had no intention of giving up an inch of French territory to Mussolini's vulturine dash for easy conquests. The German force in Lyon delayed its own advance on the French Alpine positions-but failed to notify Badoglio's HQ of this, and he ordered Army Group West forward into the San Bernardino pass after a 39 aircraft bombardment on suspected French positions by Regia Aeronautica.
    The bombardments missed the French mostly and with minimal knowledge of where French emplacements were Italian columns rapidly became pinned down by French battery fire. It began to snow heavily and Italian columns were ambushed on their flanks by French Ski and Alpine troops. The bad weather crippled Regia Aeronautica, and in the confusion some Italian troops were bombed and attacked by their own airplanes. A few days after the initial advance began a 2nd advance bogged down for all the same reasons-unchallenged French artillery fire, unknown French bunker positions, and bad weather. Only now the Italian's artillery participated in bombardments of their own troops. By the 23rd Mussolini phoned Badoglio and admitted that he wasn't interested in any territorial occupation of France tating that "Hitler might accuse me of having upset the armistice". 
    Fortunately for the Italians, by June 24th French General Charles Huntziger had agreed to an armistice and the four day Franco-Italian war came to an end. The Italians lost 642 men KIA, 2631 wounded, and 616 missing. Over 2,100 got frostbite. The binaria Divisions had done awfully, with their two Regiments frequently becoming exhausted and pinned down along parallel but isolated routs of advance. Without a 3rd Regiment Italian commanders did not have sufficient manpower to rotate exhausted units into reserve, and their men had to stand and fight without respite. Mussolini personally visited the scene of the action at the Piccolo San Bernardino, but convinced himself the episode was a a triumph, boasting to Clara Petacci that "our soldiers overcame very strong resistance". 
    Next time, Graziani goes on (a very slow) one-time-only tour in Africa! Italo Balbo meets an unfortunate fate, and a pair of palm trees are confused for a battleship. Find out next time on Mussolini's Mediterranean Misadventures...
  10. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Sgt.Squarehead in Fire and Rubble Update   
    So.....I'm one of those lucky people who immediately pre-ordered Cyberpunk 2077 and now I have finally played around with it. 
    On this basis I can only say, "Battlefront.....I don't care how long it takes, please don't release it until it's finished and thoroughly tested, by actual gamers, doing gamer stuff." 
  11. Like
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    Mussolini would in the year 2019 classify his approach as "data driven" and proceed along the same course I think. It did not help that the Generals and other politicians of Italy did not speak as one voice ever, but as disjointed and competing service branches busy chasing personal prestige and promotions. One infamous instance was when the Chief of Police Arturo Bocchini presented his report to Mussolini on public opinion. Bocchini was no dissident, he was a card carrying member of the Fascist Party. The report that the clear majority of Italians were opposed to war and frightened of it was too overwhelming to misinterpret, but Mussolini's Fascist lackey Achille Starace just shot down the report by claiming that 40 million Italians were prepared to lay down their lives for the Duce. Such dissonance proved so shocking for Mussolini that he kicked both of them out of his office and not long after the two of them were outside they got into a shouting match that nearly became violent. As Gooch says "Bocchini was prioritizing reality while Starace was prioritizing loyalty". 
  12. Like
    BletchleyGeek got a reaction from benpark in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    This year I have been in SO MANY Zoom meetings where my colleagues were just like this. Sure this approach has a name...
  13. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    In Forcyzk's book on the Battle of France it's surprising how many times the Germans lost anti-tank guns to the British when they got run over. In fact they didn't realize that the British were doing this because they lacked HE-frag rounds and bunch of tanks like the Matilda 1 and Vickers lacked a cannon at all. Using tanks to squish stuff was a pretty good way to prevent recapture too and it was done through the whole war but I imagine it does make for a pretty sick victory selfie too. 
    The Second World War 
    Although the rank and file of the Polish Army had fought hard, Poland's leaders proved meek. Generals preferring to order withdrawals and withhold important assets like tank battalions and air support at high levels wasted these valuable resources by refusing to commit them as much as possible until battles were obviously lost. Many pre-war critics had assumed that motorized warfare was only practical by low troop counts but the Germans revealed coordination of motorized Armies was not only realistic but superior to older means. Divisional Commanders could rapidly intervene in battles in a way hitherto unheard of thanks to motorization, and domination of the theatre by the Luftwaffe led SIM to conclude that there were "sinister consequences" for an Army who's Air Force lost control of their skies.
    The Italians noted that German bombing wrought widespread destruction on Polish cities, especially Warsaw, but found that bombing was also surprisingly effective against Forts, batteries, and troop concentrations. The Luftwaffe was now fielding much newer designs then what they had employed in Spain, such as the Heinkel 123, Dornier 17, and Ju 88. Although impressed by these features which undoubtedly saved the Germans many casualties on their end, SIM still fundamentally and accurately concluded that Germany had won this campaign due to its numerical superiority and the Poles' own bad leadership. Polish aircraft turned up at airfields waiting days for gasoline stocks to appear. Goering hoarded credit for "personally directing airstrikes" which did little to highlight how important Richthofen's X Fliegerkorp was when it worked as an attachment to Heer command rather than operate independently and did nothing to convince the Italians that they needed to make sure Regia Aeronautica was prepared to cooperate closely with the other services. 
    In spring 1940 the Germans offered to send Colonel Ritter von Thoma to Rome to share his experiences in Poland but Mussolini-in a bad mood-vetoed the visit. The attitude he was fostering among the Generals was one of dismissing the lessons of the Polish campaign, and Roatta was similarly unimpressed believing that fundamentally the Italian Army already knew how to execute such a war. Badoglio however, was becoming less and less convinced that the war would be over quickly and threw out Pariani's plan for an attack on the Suez Canal, he also replaced him as Chief of Army General Staff with Graziani. 
    The previous audits of Italy's Armed Forces made for dour reading but the generals ironically highlighted the Navy for praise as the single best prepared service. That Regia Marina was short by some 4,800 anti-aircraft guns to defend its 15 bases (of which there were only 1,250 to split between them all) wasn't made clear. Badoglio ended the meeting with the emphasis that the services collaborate with each other, be realistic, and give the Duce accurate information. 
    Mussolini was increasing encouraged by hints of Hitler's long-run plans to invade the Soviet Union where Germany would find its Lebensraum. He anticipated that the rich rewards of conquests East would automatically be shared out with Italy, and he was in no rush to fight the western Allies which Italy was far more exposed to than it was to Russia. He had no doubt that 'the United States would never permit the democracies to suffer total defeat' and so automatically associated war with Britain and France to war with America. In spite of that, Mussolini was determined to enter the war-at some point or another-on Germany's side but he was planning on making a move by early 1941. Pressure began to shift toward an attack on the French border toward the Rhone river, but first there were some more warnings for Mussolini to disregard...
    By the end of 1939 the new situation in Europe and Italy's status as "non-belligerent" required an evaluation of material stocks that might become scarce given the shock of the new war. General Carlo Favagrossa was detailed to conduct research through the General Commissariat for War Production and his reports began to land on Mussolini's desk. 
    Coal imports were 60,000 tons a month less than what was necessary and scrap iron was falling short 42,000 tons a month. Monthly steel output fell by 50,000 tons a month in October to a total of 110,000 tons which was 30,000 tons less than what was needed. 9,000,000,000 lire a year in gold, silver, and foreign currency would be necessary to pay for what Italy needed by total reserves only amounted to 4,000,000,000 lire. Favagrossa made projections of readiness for each of the services based on assuming the raw materials became available somehow anyway. The Air Force could be ready to begin fighting by 1940 but it would not have everything it needed until the middle of 1941, the Navy would be ready to fight by the second half of 1941 but the spare stocks of new 381/50 15in guns for the new Littorio class battleships would not exist until late 1942. Until then the ships would have only the guns they were launched with. 
    The Army was in the worst position, with full stocks of mortar, small arms, and explosive ammunitions not planned to be met until 1943 and some artillery shell types until 1944. Favagrossa was clear that Italy was in no position to fight until 1945 and it would be wise to wait until 1949. Britain was now directing all flows of raw materials into Europe for its own war needs, so even if Italy had the finances to purchase such quantities they couldn't get any unless Mussolini was prepared to enter the war on the side of the Allies. Paradoxically, Mussolini likely seized upon all of these statistics to conclude that Italy needed to enter the war soon and fight a fast war or be left behind by the pace of events. It didn't help that some of Favagrossa's shortages were indeed exaggerated. The General told Mussolini that Italy had only 25 tons of nickel left at one point, but then a month later 110 tons turned up in a report, a detail which Mussolini was not likely to miss and one among others that probably made him skeptical of such gloomy forecasts. 
    Further reports highlighted the helplessness of Italy's cities against air bombardment. The mass of the population could not afford the 35 lire gas masks on sale, and public shelters had not been constructed since it was assumed that people could simply hide in their cellars. Mussolini picked a number out of thin air that the country needed 4,000 of the new Cannone da 90/53 anti-aircraft guns-not one of which would be available until 1941-and that air raid sirens were unnecessary because enough people with good hearing could warn others. 
    The Navy concluded that it would need two million tons of fuel oil by 1942 because the two new Littorio class battleships would "drink rivers of it". The Regia Aeronautica would need 400,000 tons and the Army would need 500,000 tons. The Soviet Union had by now cut off oil exports to Italy but they were still getting deliveries from the United States and Mexico. Mussolini concluded that domestic refineries could probably account for at least a quarter of all needs per year. 
    The Navy wanted 20,000 tons of steel, 3000 tons of copper, 1500 tons of lead and the private ship building industry would need much more if it wanted to keep going. The Army was going to need over a million tons of iron,  160,000 tons of copper and 14,000 tons of rubber. Italy would need to produce four million tons of steel a year to meet the total national and armed service requirements. Three quarters  of the machine tools used in aircraft production were imported from the US and Germany. Mussolini had some less-than-encouraging answers as to where all of these was going to come from. 
    Why there was enough steel in metal railings, pots, pans, loose metal etc in all of Italy to meet such demands obviously! Without having any sources Mussolini simply claimed that the Dolomites contained hitherto unheard of quantities of magnesium and that a process could be made practical which would convert clay into aluminum. When chairing meetings Mussolini had a tendency to address issues he had answers for and simply ignore those he had nothing on. When confronted by statistics revealing Italy's vulnerability in foodstocks and textiles one time he simply overwhelmed his audience with production statistics for olive oil, meat, fish, and wool and that ten million goats and sheep were available in the countryside. The meat situation was not a problem because in his words "20 million Italians have the wise habit of not eating it and can do very well". 
    Despite this Mussolini did not go unquestioned. Balbo made a written submission to one meeting emphasizing that he he was short almost 65,000 troops for war in Egypt. He had few air defenses, modern weapons, Officers were in short supply, and suitable motor vehicles and pack animals were barely available. Tobruk had only 20 anti-aircraft guns for its defense and of 400 aircraft in his command only 240 were fit for action. Badoglio commented that if Balbo were given everything he was asking for 'Italy would be completely emptied out". Mussolini made one concession to him, his command would receive priority for the new Cannone da 47/32 anti-tank gun "the best anti tank gun in Europe" the Duce emphasized. 
    An interesting attendee of these meetings was the Minister of Education, Giuseppe Bottai, who commented that he had never seen so much paper and so many plans and forecasts with no firm check on whether or not any of it had been put into effect or acted on. Everyone was signing up for mythical dates of readiness in 1941 and 1942 but 'only if they are given the money'. 
    Roatta realized that this circle couldn't be squared. The Army was neither strong enough to fight an offensive war outside Italy and not equipped well enough to fight one inside Italy either. The only defense system within affordable reach would have to be based on concrete fortifications. Mussolini was increasingly becoming attached to a course of action that was based on what Hitler did than what his material reality was, and it was impossible to guess what he'd decide next. The German Generals lamented to the Italians that in fact this was not much different from working under Hitler, who would make decisions and inform his Generals the next day. Mussolini and Badoglio were both conducting strategy that was at odds with one another, with Mussolini increasingly taking unilateral action on decisions and policy that Badoglio wanted to conduct more cautiously and distant from German input. 
    If Badoglio and Roatta believed that Mussolini could be dissuaded from further alignment with Germany however, they were soon to be disappointed. In March 1940 Hitler and Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass. Mussolini confirmed that Italy would intervene at some point on Germany's behalf (probably in 3 to 4 months when the two new Littorio class battleships were ready) and the Furher remarked that the destinies of the two nations were "indissolubly linked". Hitler again did not emphasize any need for Italy to enter the war on his command, and even suggested against an attack on the French Alps however. 
    Mussolini spent the period of the "Phoney War" in a good mood, remarking to Clara Petacci that the only complication he could see was Russia standing aside while Europe battered itself, potentially making a Soviet invasion easy in the future. Mussolini was still remarkably scant on specifics in his standing orders of what Italy should do in the event of war. He directed the Army to consider war on Yugoslavia, East Africa and Djibouti but didn't mark out any clear political objectives. Just that offensive and defensive action should be taken "according to the fronts and enemy initiatives". 
    The Last Days of Caution 
    In April 1940 General Jodl stated to General Marras that the war would be decided in France. He was prevented from making specific operational points clear earlier by skepticism within the Wehrmacht that Italy could not keep secrets. Calling a meeting a few days later-while Germany was invading Denmark and Norway-Badoglio told the General Staff that Italy could try offensive action only when her enemies were in a state of total collapse. The military was being told to be ready for anything-except close cooperation with the Germans- and only Francecso Pricolo of the Air Force pointed out that it was hard to draw up operational plans without a clear idea of who they'd be fighting. 
    In Rome General von Rintelen presented Italy with 3 options, support the German attack on France by invading toward the Rhone, or striking North into the rear of the Maginot Line, or attacking Egypt. Graziani didn't like the sound of any of them but he especially disliked the idea of attacking the British in Egypt without German tanks, the early shipping of which might lead to a pre-emptive offensive against Libya by the British. By now Anglo-French forces in North Africa had grown so large that Cavagnari had to admit to Mussolini that control of the Sicilian Channel was meaningless, the Allies had already positioned all the troops they needed in Africa. His timing was poor, Mussolini had assured Hitler a few days earlier that the Navy was ready and he snapped at the Admiral. "What was the point of building 600,000 tons of warships if Italy did not take the opportunity to to use them against the British and French?!" 
    Badoglio discouraged Mussolini from the south strike against the Maginot Line, remarking that Italy would be playing second-fiddle to the Germans. He was more receptive to the idea of an attack though the Alps into southern France. A few days before the assault of France began, General Carl-Heinrich von Stulpnagel suggested that Libya was no longer a priority and that the Italians should consider sending 20 Divisions to Germany's western frontier facing the Maginot Line. Mussolini had started to become concerned about Libya, where it was reported that the French now had 314,000 men to face the 130,000 strong Italian Army there with another 100,000 British troops in Egypt. Badoglio managed to scrounge up another 80,000 men for Libya but when given these men Balbo remarked "it is useless to send me thousands more men if I cannot give them the means to move and fight". 
    A few days after the Battle of France began Mussolini nonetheless remarked that he would take Italy to war "within the month". Again the rapid pace of events served to make the Duce's mood uneven and unpredictable. With the Meuse Line collapsing and the British Expeditionary Force retreating in Belgium he became increasingly bellicose, remarking to the American ambassador William Phillips that Italy could not remain absent at a moment when Europe's future was being decided, and made the same remarks in letters to Churchill and Roosevelt. A memorandum came in from Graziani that Italy's two armored Divisions had only seventy medium tanks between them and no heavy vehicles or armored cars. The infantry Divisions had less than 3/5 the number of guns as equivalent French Divisions and the Army was short 8,000 trucks and had 8 months of fuel. Mussolini was exasperated, stating "I would have to wait years to enter the war if I had to wait for the Army to be ready. But I have to enter it now." 
    A few days after the Dunkirk evacuation Mussolini called the General Staff together and told them he was going to join the war before June 5th, and wrote to Hitler on the 30th of May informing him of this plan. Stating that he had 70 Divisions ready and that another 70 could be drawn up but that he lacked the equipment for them. Badoglio informed Pricolo to have the airmen ready to challenge incursions by French aircraft through the border, and Pricolo remarked that up until now it had looked like he would be in action against Yugoslavia. Marshall Balbo-visibly frightened-told Mussolini that if Italy entered war now French troops would capture Tripoli in 10 days. His concerns were disregarded by Mussolini's insistence that any losses in Africa could be made up by victory in Europe. 
    Favagrossa made one last attempt to bombard his boss with statistics. The Army had enough machine gun and artillery ammunition for 50 days of fighting, only 22 of 71 Divisions were near complete-lacking a third of their assigned trucks. 30 Divisions were "efficient" but lacked their 81mm mortars and 47mm anti-tank guns and another 19 were 'incomplete'. Badoglio believed that this last attempt had dissuaded Mussolini from war.
    That misunderstanding lasted 24 hours. 
    At the Quirinale Palace, Vittorio Emanuele III mulled over the war decree Mussolini presented him with for war beginning on June 10th. None of the options were palatable. If he refused to sign he feared civil war, but he knew Italy's prospects in a European War were bad. He did not expect the monarchy to survive either way...
    Next time, the Italy goes to war.. 
  14. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    The Italian military was struck by an influx of young and assertive applications for the General Staff during the 1920s. The First World War's bloody setbacks at Caporetto had traumatized a generation and a nation, and it seemed as if huge Armies of semi-trained conscripts would in the future be swept aside by small, professional, well-armed groups of elite shock troopers. Materially, it was felt that Italy could not afford long grinding wars of attrition, which would wear the nation away against a world full of such large enemies. Italy's new super soldiers would be virile young men raised in a harsh world of Barracks-Lifestyle overthrowing a world of-in their view- pathetic Liberal compromise, empathy, and weakness.  Age and crusty conservativism were automatically associated with one another, and when Mussolini became Duce he set about a process of shaking up the military establishment by sacking and retiring many of its older staff members. 
    In 1933 Mussolini fired the previous War Minister, took the job for himself, and awarded his under-secretary General Federico Baistrocchi with the task of modernizing the Army. Biastrocchi had his work cut out for him. Mussolini demanded a force of 15 motorized Divisions ready by 1947, the first of many over ambitious figures that would simply never be met. For tactics however, Baistrocchi designed a system of field regulations and procedures that in most ways mixed the more classical mechanics of the older wars with the dynamic mobility of the new age. Airplanes, Cavalry Divisions, and tanks would break the frontline open with fast shock assaults while the artillery would pummel fixed or resistant enemy positions while the infantry advanced under protective umbrellas of fire support. Infantry were still seen as the chief instrument of combat, and much investment was placed in a system of indoctrination of Fascist values. War was a spiritual, abstract reality where individual willpower and willingness to sacrifice were the chief means by which Armies obtained victory. 
    Baistroochi was ahead of his time in many ways, but he made the mistake of cautioning Mussolini against the Ethiopian War in 1934 and was sacked not long after. He was replaced by General Alberto Pariani. Pariani was a major advocate of light formations fighting a fast war of maneuver, and it was he who came up with the binaria Division. Lacking organic artillery larger than mortars and dependent on trucks for movement which were authorized but never appeared, these organizations would suffer harshly in the World War.
    Badoglio had remarked in print that he preferred the binaria Division, but in private he had major doubts about the formations. Pariani was a good showman however, and used maneuvers and training events-highly publicized ones-to wrongfoot his critics in the military. Crucially he had the Duce's backing, and eventually the General Staff fell in line. 
    In 1937 Pariani was invited to attend maneuvers of the German Wehrmacht at Mecklenburg and his opposite, Werner von Blomberg visited Italy in turn. The two future Axis powers started to size up each other's forces for the first time. Blomberg was impressed by Mussolini and Pariani but was lukewarm on his inspections of Italian troops. Pariani for his part was far more impressed by what he witnessed. German Officer training "stressed character and decision-making, training was all practical- very little place is given to theory". He was however letdown by what he saw of Germany's equipment, much of which he rated as definitely no better than Italy's and some of which perhaps even inferior. At this time, Italy's practical experience in combat was greater than Germany's, and the Germans consequently viewed the Italians with some esteem. 
    After the rump Czechoslovakian state was finished off, Hitler decided to give the OKW permission to discuss war with the Italians but for now not to imply or hint at any operational goals. Escalating international tensions in early 1939 led to a meeting between Pariani and Wilhelm Keitel in April at Innsbruck. Pariani declared to Keitel that in recent years Italy's primary enemy had shifted from England to France, and he presented a plan of attack to Keitel aimed at France's African colonies which Keitel was unimpressed by. The meeting was a somewhat awkward affair in which the Italians revealed much and Keitel almost nothing except that both of them expected war with the Western powers was imminent. Both men left the meeting with misleading impressions of the other side, with Keitel believing that Italy was expecting a short war which would not require material aid while Pariani left the meeting believing he had conveyed the need for material support to Keitel in the event of a long war. 
    Pariani drew up a wishlist of equipment needed by Italy to join Germany in a war against the Allies. 570,220 rifles and sub machine guns, 3,420 mortars, 2,490 infantry and other small caliber guns. 51,830,000 rounds of ammunition, 6,700 trucks, and 460 tanks. If the war went longer than a year Italy would need another 1,103,000 rifles and machine guns, 9100 mortars, 2,200 field guns, and 2,612,534 rounds of ammunition. With these material figures Pariani planned on raising 41 brand new Divisions. 
    In April Britain guaranteed the independence of Greece and Romania and this put Greece under Mussolini's crosshairs that month. Mussolini believed that Greece was a British "outpost" in the Mediterranean and had wanted to invade it much earlier in the 1930s. Deciding to attack obliquely, Mussolini invaded Albania instead although probably much of this was inspired by the need to match Hitler's destruction of Czechoslovakia. Given only a week of warning the commander of the invasion force- General Guzzoni-was only able to meet mobilization figures for 22,000 men of his force, the other 78,000 lacking any kind of transport. The fact that this force was facing a 60,000 strong Albanian Army might've proven disastrous but in any case,  King Zog folded right away, he fled and no national defense was mounted. Gooch states "Perhaps for this reason the notion that such ventures needed training and preparation failed to take root in the Duce's mind". 
    In May 1939 Galeazzo Ciano met with Joachim von Ribbentrop in Berlin to sign the Pact of Steel, guaranteeing one nation would come to the other's aid in a war regardless of circumstances. Mussolini suggested to Ribbentrop a few weeks later that Italy would not be ready to fight until 1943, but Ethiopia would yield an Army of six million men, and six new battleships would be finished. Since they'd be unable to access world markets, Mussolini said it would be necessary to seize the entire Danube basin and Balkans in order to mobilize enough resources to sustain each nation's war economy. 
    At this stage, Mussolini was confronted by several warnings and a pace of events which moved much faster than he was prepared to digest. In early July the British ambassador to Rome Sir Percy Loraine warned that Britain was not going to tolerate pressure on Poland to yield the Danzig corridor and that if Italy persisted with Germany over Poland there would be war. Mussolini fired back that Italy would back Germany with force if this were to happen, but behind the scenes he flinched. Mussolini ordered Ciano to meet with Ribbentrop in Salzburg and persuade him to avoid war.  The meeting was a fiasco though, Ribbentrop disregarded the Italian's concerns about war with Britain. Later on Hitler cut some slack in the affair by stating that in the event of war he would not ask Italy to intervene under the terms of the Pact of Steel. 
    The forecast for war got worse with each passing month. Badoglio presented Mussolini with some hard facts about the Army's state of readiness. 52 of the 72 Divisions available were needed for defense of Italy's colonies at the country itself. Only twenty would be available for operations in Africa and the Balkans. Italy's gold reserves were depleted and preparations for rearmament were far from complete, with less than half of the available 72 Divisions anywhere near their authorized equipment stocks and only around 20 near it. Articles in the Italian press advancing Fascist territorial aspirations in Greece and Egypt were met with strong public hostility, and a report from the Chief of Police landed on Mussolini's desk showing the overwhelming majority of Italians feared war and did not want it. Roatta suggested that perhaps none of this was necessary, believing that Poland would prove much tougher than Germany expected it to be and that their invasion might even fail. By the end of August Mussolini had to accept he could not go to war yet no matter how much he wanted to. 
    The day after Hitler's invasion of Poland began Pariani decided to make further mobilizations of manpower regardless of the shortages of equipment. During September and October eight Divisions, 4 regular Army and 4 Blackshirt, were dispatched to Libya where they joined four Metropolitan and two Libyan Divisions achieving a combined force of around 130,000 deployed troops North Africa. The Governor-General of Libya, Italo Balbo, found that little to no equipment had been sent with these men and remarked that if war had broken out in September the consequences would've been frightful. Material shortages all across Italian mobilization were humiliatingly bad. Reports landed on Mussolini's desk speaking of one ration being shared between 10 men and soldiers showing up for roll call in civilian clothes owing to lack of uniforms. Many men went home or slept in public buildings for lack of barracks. 
    Pariani and Badoglio began weaving two different stories of mobilization. Pariani claimed that by November 38 Divisions would be complete and by next year there'd be another 26. Badoglio's report on the other hand, laid reality out. Only 10 of the 72 Divisions in the Army were full manned, and 22 didn't exist at all. Enough fuel was on hand for 4 and a half months. All of Italy's anti-aircraft guns were from the First World War and the Air Force had enough fuel to fly its 1,769 airplanes for two months. But hey, the Navy is probably ready to go at least right? 
    About that...
    The Naval Situation
    Naval priorities as laid about Admiral Cavagnari made it clear that the chief objective of Regia Marina would be protection of Italy's sea lanes. It was clear during the First World War that Italy was dependent on foreign inputs of raw materials to sustain warship construction. There were strong feelings both ways that Italy's position in the Mediterranean was either very good for her or very bad for her providing the country with either a commanding position over the entire Mediterranean or total vulnerability to attack from any direction in the Mediterranean. 
    The first priority was thus protection of the nation's vital supply lines. The second objective was to attack the enemy's supply lines and coasts. Studies done in the 1930s were as Gooch states "gloomy reading". Britain and France could put at least 3 battleships on both ends of the Mediterranean right away and would probably deploy more. This ruled force-projection against either spoke of the sea be it toward Gibraltar or the Suez. Thus the Navy settled into a defensive role planned around escorting convoys to Libya and protecting the coastline. 
    The simple fact was Cavagnari's Navy looked impressive but materially had little else going for it. 100,000 men were necessary to achieve war-time crew counts of 170,000 men. Specialists were in short supply, with radio operators and mechanics expected to be 25% undermanned. There were not enough vessels in the entire national fishing fleet to provide 870 auxiliary minesweepers the navy studies believed it would need. 
    For today that's what i'm doing. This is a big chapter with little excitement and the next half won't be much different but bear with me here because things are going to get moving fast. 
  15. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to danfrodo in New Russian Eastern Front movie   
    this is ridiculous.  It's classic old fascist claptrap where they say "what about Stalin"  when they are really saying "Hitler had the right idea" but know they can't say that out loud so do it this way.   And then we have memoirs of captured german soldiers who complain how badly they were treated by the soviets -- after having killed ~15% of the soviet population.  they were treated horribly and suffered terribly, but no worse than what was done to those hundreds of thousands (millions?) of soviet prisoners who the germans let die in 1941/42.  So let's not play the "who was worse" game. 
    yeah yeah yeah, we all know Stalin was a murderous monster of unbelievable proportions.  I read a book on Stalin and was shocked that he was even worse than I thought when I already thought he was an incredible monster.  Which somehow gets Hitler off the hook, and also shows that the allies were hypocrites, and we should've allied w hitler to stop the commies, blah blah blah. 
    But all that really matters here is some russian folks made a movie that has lots of 45mm AT guns shooting at some realistic-looking german tanks, and that's all I really care about.  I am not watching this for it's literary elegance or great moral enlightenment or historical accuracy (other than the gear, which has to be right).  I just want some CM-looking battles on my TV. I usually fast forward through the pathetically scripted non-battle sections anyway (who can write such drivel?).  So they made it into russian propaganda? who cares, everyone does that -- as if hollywood never made nationalistic, propaganda-filled war movies.  Just show me some good battles. 
    And herbert hoover never had to make the choice of which monster to back, so it's easy for him to throw stones later.  If the soviets had fallen how long before the US was facing armadas of german Uboats sinking all our commerical shipping?  What choice did we really have other than to back Devil #2 to fight Devil#1?
  16. Like
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Commanderski in Fire and Rubble Preview: The Anatomy of What Goes Into a Stock Campaign Release   
    It needs some rubble around it. Otherwise it looks like it was built that way even with bullet holes and cracks.
  17. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    Transport capacity was both limited, and expensive. Additionally the Italian Generals felt their equipment was outdated, so might as well leave it to Franco, who  often had nothing comparable. Tankettes are goofy things and yeah one time the Ethiopians destroyed a few when they made the mistake of giving chase without allowing their infantry support to keep up. They are ultimately better than nothing especially since proper anti-tank weapons were few and far between for the time. Although the L3 was certainly the bottom tier of the class it was the only tank Italy could make lots of for a time. Besides, the public can't tell what it's problems are from photos and parades. 
    It was based very closely on the British Carden Loyd tankette which later went on to serve as the basis for many other light tanks and carriers (including the Universal "Bren" Carrier"). Only the L3 did not ride very smooth and its enclosed crew compartment tended to trap exhaust fumes and make crews sick. Early models used rivet construction with meant that when hit directly the rivets could spall into the crew compartment. The Italians had already decided by the Spanish Civil War that it would need to replaced but the planned replacement -itself based on the Vickers 6 ton- was obsolete by the time it hit the drawing board. The chief shortage facing Italian mobile units from here on out would be shortages of crucial trucks.
    The SM.79 is an interesting exception for the most part, however it was a 3 engine airplane in a country with many difficulties mass producing powerful airplane engines. So production was doomed to be limited. It did remain in some nation's inventories until 1953 though. 
    Well it seems that there's a bit of a yes and no to this based on what im gathering. The Generals fully appreciated the consequences of the tank, airplane, and truck...but in their fixation on the new gee-whiz gimmicks of the age they seem to have thought very little of the more conventional tools of soldiering like small arms and artillery. Much was expected to be made up for by highly abstract notions romanticized by Fascism like Strength of the Will  and racial superiority and such. Dash and daring certainly played a role in the field, but too often they were expected to substitute for military science and Italy seems to have avoided serious punishment for that due to the feeble nature of the enemies it had faced thus far. 
    The next chapters provide answers to this but to give you a glimpse on the last part because "Hitler is going to destroy England, so we we can only lose if we wait". 
  18. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    It is about 75% opportunism, but with some degree of respect for strategic reality compromised by the Piedmontese General Staff implying that they could achieve much more if *their* service was given priority in funding. Then reality was even further distorted by the Allies apparent meekness over Ethiopia and Munich, which misled Mussolini into the belief that they were much weaker than they appeared. Hitler would fall for that too. 
    There was certainly far less of a concrete "vision" in Mussolini's mind of his New World Order. It resembled something vaguely along the lines of the Roman Empire's territorial outline, but it was never anywhere near as specific as the Nazis plans for a Neo-Germania Superior which was clearly laid out in Generalplan Ost. The chapter after Spain goes into something of an interlude covering just those questions though Bletchley, Gooch's narrative this time is just more focused on the application of Mussolini's aims than the thinking although there's still plenty on that. For now it seems that Gooch wanted to get out a narrative of the distinctly pre-World War fighting that Italy engaged in before 1939. 
    Arriba Espana 
    I read Beevor's single volume account of the Spanish Civil War ie: The Battle for Spain some years ago so this is a conflict i'm already pretty familiar with the backstory on. The narrative featured quite a bit about Italy's conduct during the war but for obvious reasons Beevor had to leave some things out owing to scope. 
    Mussolini had his first hint that trouble was brewing in Spain in June of 1936, only a month before the Coup attempt. The Italian military attache in Tangiers warned that Spanish Generals were planning an uprising and its execution was imminent. At first, Italian military intelligence advised against involvement, the coup looked like it had failed. The Nationalists held only 3 major cities in Spain after the first days of the uprising. 
    Although Gooch highlights that Franco was a major personality among the Nationalists from the start, he does not bring up that it wasn't until somewhat after the start of the conflict that he had achieved his Caudillo status as Dictator. He was in fact sharing power within the military-junta with Emilio Mola and Jose Sanjurjo, both of whom would perish sometime later. Mussolini certainly came to favor Franco however, and once he attached the notion of a Fascist-Prestige victory to Spain he was certainly bound to commit something.
    A more material reason was that the economic hardship inflicted on Italy by the war in Ethiopia, which Fascist authorities wanted to distract people from. No small amount of calculation played a role here though. The Spanish Civil War might offer a good opportunity to play France and Britain against one another, and at the time Mussolini's relationship with Nazi Germany was uncertain, and he did not necessarily want a pro-Berlin government in Madrid while he was still waging something of a 3 way game on the continent. One concrete factor did unify the Fascist states at this stage, mutual commitment to destroying Communism in Spain. 
    Unfortunately the Vatican played a hitherto unheard of role in a 20th century war this time around, and it was not one Catholicism could be proud of in hindsight although support for the Fascists was far from uniform among the Church's supporters. Catholic Press drove home a message that Rome was completely behind Franco's Nationalists, helped by the violence in Spain against clergy resulting from many centuries of pent-up fear of judgement (a feature of Spain which Antony Beevor referred to as the "trauma" of a deeply superstitious culture) and no small amount of corruption on the part of diocese. Pope Pius XI published an encyclical in 1937 lambasting Communism as "a pseudo ideal of justice, equality, fraternity in labor", but he refused to condemn the bombing of Guernica that year by the Nationalists, Germans and Italians despite pleas from Basque priests and clergy to do so.  
    Mussolini's first specter to appear in Spain was General Mario Roatta, who would later go on to command the Italian Expeditionary Force sent there the "Corpo Truppe Volontarie" or CTV. Roatta was deeply pessimistic on the Nationalists' position, he was particularly critical of Franco (a move which would lead to his removal later on) and accused Spanish Generals of fighting as they had in the Rif War with outdated methods and thinking. He made it clear however, that Nationalist Victory could be ensured if Franco received support from Italy, and around the same time a report landed in Rome that Germany was planning on making commitments to Spain as well. 
    In December 1936 the first Blackshirt Milita volunteers arrived at Cadiz and over the next two months the CTV reached its average size of 48,000-50,000 troops with 488 guns, 1,211 machine guns, 46 light tanks, and 706 mortars. Goering began to meet with Mussolin in Rome, and both of them agreed that Franco's conduct was too slow. It seems neither of them realized that Franco was fighting deliberately slow. He had no interest in sharing the prestige of victories with other personalities in the Nationalist movement. 
    The CTV had its first action around Malaga in February 1937. Franco hoped the CTV would draw Republican defenders out of Madrid. Three Italian columns headed by tanks and personnel carriers and covered by German and Italian aircraft drove south west to capture the hills near the city. They were supported by another 5 Spanish columns. Malaga's defenders had only a single anti-aircraft gun and three machine guns, so even though they outnumbered the Italians considerably (2 to 1) and despite some valiant resistance by some of their milita bands the CTV captured Malaga a bit less than a week after the offensive began. After this attack Mussolini wanted Roatta to push on to Madrid but Franco demanded the CTV attack at Guadalajara which Roatta preferred. He didn't want the mechanized CTV to get caught up city fighting and Guadalajara looked much more preferable. 
    During March the weather turned foul and neither the Condor Legion or Regia Aeronautica were able to provide much support. Roatta decided to push ahead, and attacked Republican positions with 30,000 troops, 160 guns, 81 light tanks, and 2,400 trucks. They were faced by around 10,000 Republicans at the start of the battle, but the Republicans would rapidly reinforce their defense to around 30,000 by the end of the battle. 
    Foul weather turned into abysmal weather as rain gave way to blinding sleet and mud roads. The International Brigades began to appear, conducting vicious counter-attacks on CTV columns. Roatta decided to call the offensive off, which Mussolini agreed to but Franco vetoed. Retreat would be humiliating but in the middle of March a huge attack on Italian frontline positions was made by Republican bombers with fighter escorts. Panic broke among the 1st Blackshirt Division and the whole CTV had to redeploy to a 2nd line of defense to prevent a rout from breaking out where they managed to hold out. A humiliating battle in which the CTV's modern equipment and heavy firepower did little to protect it from defeat, the Italians lost around 600 men and 2,000 wounded at the Guadalajara against which the Republicans lost many more men owing to their own lack of such arms. Probably around 2,200 dead and 6,000 wounded. Ernest Hemingway mocked the Nationalists in the press and eulogized the Republican defense. Franco stated that from now on the CTV would fight only under parent Spanish formations under the command of Spanish Generals. 
    German observers however, highlighted that the main reason the attack had failed was that the Italians had not pressed forward, and too easily became content or "stuck" raiding villages and towns for "Communists" to shoot and then loot. At Gooch highlights, many of Roatta's troops were a "motley crew". A quarter of them had criminal records, fifteen percent were over forty, many were suffering from hernias, appendicitis, and syphilis. As both Gooch and Beevor point out, the battle if anything made Mussolini more determined to destroy Republican Spain and he increased aid. 
    Roatta was replaced by General Bastico, who reorganized the CTV. The Littorio Division was untouched but two of the three Blackshirt Divisions were dissolved and 3,700 of their men sent home. A hundred Officers and two Blackshirt Division commanders were fired as well as one regular Army General. Around this time Franco decided to reorient the Nationalist war effort against the Basques and to crush their sector before attacking Madrid again. The next time the CTV would be used was around Santander. Despite the unfavorable, mountainous ground the CTV was able to open the main road to the city in only two days against an 80,000 strong Republican force that had 180 guns, 70 airplanes, and months without pressure to construct a defense. The CTV reached the city's outskirts by the end of August, only around a week after their offensive began and-with good planning and skillfull execution-undermined and destroyed isolated Republican defensive positions outside of the city. Bastico received a delegation from the Republican defenders before the month ended presenting the city's surrender and he entered the city. 
    Unlike Guadalajara, the fighting around Santander was a major success. Bastico glowed about his troops in his reports afterwards, and highlighted that the light Italian tanks and artillery worked well in the mountainous climate. He did however, issue the first warning that the Binaria Divisions of two regiments were not strong enough to conduct attacks on their own and that Commando Supremo should consider returning to triangular Divisions. Bastico however, later fell afoul of Franco over a dispute on prisoners -all of whom Franco wanted to shoot- and he was recalled in September and replaced by Mario Berti. 
    During the first half of 1937 Italian submarines and warships sank nine ships supplying the Republicans, six of which were Spanish, one was Russian, and one was British, the last one's flag isn't mentioned. Although the material effect of this blockade was limited, it reinforced a view that the Italian Navy was serious about punishing transgressors so even though in September Mussolini called off further Naval attacks on merchant shipping, supplies to the Republicans began to dwindle anyway. Regia Aeronautica fought for air supremacy over Madrid during this period and the Republicans were eventually down to less than half of their irreplaceable 158 airplanes they had at their highest readiness. 
    Although Mussolini desired victory he also desired a fast end to the war, as the situation was now changing rapidly in Europe. Germany was making moves on Austria again, and Italian Generals were infuriated at the slow pace with which Franco preferred to conduct his operations. Franco was by now head of the Nationalists, and determined to crush resistance in rear areas before finishing off Republican cities. After a Nationalist offensive on Madrid failed in November and the Aragon Offensive was cancelled, Berti began to feel the whole CTV should be pulled out. Mussolini agreed, but compromised with Franco by advising him that from now on the CTV would remain in reserve and only allowed to participate in attacks which the Italians considered prestigious. This caused them to miss the decisive fighting at Teruel later on which Franco was able to wield and had billed to the Italians as an unimportant objective, but world media was closely focused on it. 
    Franco asked the CTV be used against Alcaniz instead, another rather unfavorable mountain town overlooking fortified high ground. Despite the unfavorable conditions for mechanized troops the CTV did well in this battle. There was "one truck for every fourteen to sixteen men" and Berti could call upon 236 guns for his attacks. Italian troops used the tried and true methods of smashing Republican positions with artillery fire and then advancing in uncomplicated frontal attacks to seize ground. Alcaniz fell in March 1938. 
    Mussolini, encouraged by Hitler's shock triumph with Anschluss in Austria  and learning that the French were stepping up resupply efforts to the Republicans ordered General Valle to bomb Barcelona. Over three days Italian bombers dropped 44 tons of high explosive on the city killing 600 and maiming 990. The final planned stroke of the CTV's time in Spain came in the offensive against Valencia. Berti personally assessed the strength of Republican defenses at around 100,000 men supported by 1,300 machine guns, 130-150 guns, 70 tanks, and 200 aircraft. Once again an offensive was initiated into a scorched, hilly rock country (if you've watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the tank scene was filmed around this area giving you a picture of how it looked.) and although casualties were light there appear to have been a number of friendly-fire incidents this time as Italian artillery and aircraft struck own-troop positions at points. Despite that heavy air and artillery bombardments again broke defensive positions on these areas and the CTV had defeated and bypassed most of the frontline positions in a week and a half when word came of a major Republican offensive in the south. 
    The CTV was northwest of Valencia when the Republicans launched their great last-ditch offensive of the war on the Ebro river and was quickly redeployed to contain that assault. The Republicans were fighting hard not to lose their bridgehead over the Ebro and a counter thrust by the CTV toward Gandesa and Tortosa proceeded slowly. By early April of 1938 the CTV captured the mountain pass around the Sierra del Montenegrelo which had a commanding view of the Ebro river. Italian engineers spent a day converting a mule track into a road for artillery positions by mid April the Republicans had to blow the bridges over the Ebro. Tortosa fell not long after. Regia Aeronautica flew 4000 sorties and dropped 1,000 tons of bombs many of which came from the new Breda Ba.65 ground attack airplane. 
    This defensive campaign cost the CTV 530 dead and 2,482 wounded. Only half as many losses as the Nationalists had suffered. By this time however the CTV was beginning to see the consequences of chronic losses, with some companies down to only around 100 men. By the end of July around 5,500 replacements made their way into Spain-some of whom concealed in civilian clothing-but this wasn't quite enough to fully reinforce the CTV up to authorized strength. The CTV's role in the battle was a controversial one for the Nationalist side. By the time the Italians arrived the Republican offensive had already stalled well short of its planned objectives, but it was CTV that put in the killing blow, completely reversing all of the captures made by the Republicans and denying the Republicans even a salvageable moral victory. By November operations around the Ebro were over. 
    Mussolini remained however, disproportionately worried by reports reaching him that the French were still supplying the Republicans and their will to fight had not been broken. He even believed that Franco might yet be defeated, but he was in fact completely unaware that foreign military observers and neutrals had entirely the opposite conclusion. The American naval attache was reporting Washington that Republican collapse was imminent. Mussolini's attention was becoming increasingly diverted by the burgeoning crisis over Czechoslovakia, and his mood became uneven. He went back and forth with Franco for a time on everything from withdrawing the CTV, to reinforcing it, to reducing it to a single division, or to adding another division, before finally settling on reducing the CTV to a single division. 
    The CTV was reduced from 39,000 men to 19,300 along with 9,000 Fascist "militiamen". Berti was relieved, not for being a bad commander, but because Mussolini was frustrated that he was still a bachelor and that it looked bad in the bizarre reality of the Fascist world not to be fathering children and spreading genes. He was replaced by Gastone Gambarra, a total convert to the ideas of mechanized warfare. Mussolini and Franco agreed that the CTV would strike Catalonia this time, and in December 1938 the assault began. Conducted entirely in the manner of a skillful Blitzkrieg, Taragona fell quickly and the Italians were rapidly outpacing Nationalist infantry on their flanks. Resistance quickly collapsed and before the month was up the Nationalists were in Barcelona and the CTV had captured Gerona and closed the border. Republican leadership collapsed and fled in March and Franco entered Madrid that month. 
    The Italians committed 42,715 soldiers and 32,216 Blackshirt militamen and lost 3,318 dead and 11,763 wounded. 1,604 guns fired 10,000,000 rounds and the CTV took 108,000 prisoners, destroyed 65 tanks, and shot down 544 aircraft. Moods and morale turned foul in the CTV again after the Aragon Offensive-which they were the star of-was cancelled. This offensive was being conducted in open ground that favored mechanized forces (George Orwell was wounded fighting in the area at the time) and Italian leadership was deeply displeased when Franco called it off. Clearly at no point was it understood by Mussolini that all Franco wanted was equipment from the Italians, and that he would prefer to do without the Italians themselves. Even when "cooperating", the Fascist states were far from cooperative with each other. 
    Regia Aeronautica calculated that it had sent 213 bombers, 414 fighters, and 132 other airplanes with 372,261 bombs. 517 airplanes had been given to the Nationalists, and 350 were left behind when the RA disbanded its wings in Spain. The RA's bill amounted to 1,000,506,000 lire. 
    Regia Marina tabulated that it had used 87 transports to make 193 trips, 10 ships, mostly submarines, were handed over to the Nationalists, and decryption/signal interception services were provided. Direct costs amounted to 6,086,003,680 lire, with all potential costs being in the realm of around 66.9 billion lire, leaving a deficit of 40.4 billion. 
    Yet again Italy stripped its forces of enormous stocks of hardware and tools leaving 442 artillery guns and 7,500 motor vehicles to the Nationalists. This equipment would be sorely missed in 1940 just when Graziani would've needed it to oppose the British in Africa next year. 
    The Italians were somewhat more sober about the lessons they pulled from this conflict, and concluded correctly that the Spanish Civil War had been a somewhat amateur conflict fought between relative lightweights. It would not much resemble the looming major war which was by now on the horizon. There was still quite a bit of excessive optimism however. The Regia Aeronautica was convinced by the performance of its biplane fighter, the CR.32, and by the encouragement of individualist pilots engaging in fancy aerobatics that they were right to continue with a standing doctrine of aerial warfare that resembled something much closer to the Red Baron's days. Even though there had been occasional setbacks over Madrid when the Republicans started fielding newer airplanes like the I-16 and Chato. Formations had learned to practice flights of 5 airplanes in 3 groups organized vertically over top of each other, so that that the highest group could cover the one beneath it. Close air support was conducted with great success by airplanes specially designed for the task, but the Douhetist thinking of Regia Aeronautica emphasized strategic bombing and air superiority and so not much was considered further in the school of battlefield-support which would bless Italy's peers with superb support craft like the Stuka, Douglass A-20 and IL-2 Sturmovik.
    Worst of all was the conclusion by high ranking members of the Fascist state, such as Galeazzo Ciano, that constructing raid shelters and anti-aircraft defenses were useless, and that the only means of protection for the inhabitants of cities was air supremacy and evacuation. When the Allies began bombing Italian cities in 1942 and with nothing like a Kammhuber line, public air raid shelters, or sophisticated air defense network Italian cities would disgorge themselves of hundreds of thousands of refugees at a time clogging roads and overburdening rural infrastructure. 
    Bastico made efforts while back in Italy to convince Army leadership that the binaria Divisions were a failed experiment and the Army should reorganized divisions into triangular formations again. Gambara backed the binary division though, and so did General Pariani now Chief of the General Staff. Bastico lost the argument. This formation left Italian Infantry Divisions without an organic artillery component-which in theory would be provided by a Corp HQ-and almost totally reliant on their small arms and mortars for firepower projection. Italian troops would suffer greatly under avalanches of 25pdr and 105mm howitzer fire in the big war. 
    Surprisingly not much mentioned in this chapter is the bombing of Guernica and the international condemnation that came with it. Beevor's book goes over that event in much greater detail. 
    Next time, the interlude. Dabbling and haggling in the realm of politics and military reorganization, and the increasing influence of Hitler and the Nazis over Mussolini. 
  19. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Warts 'n' all in Fire and Rubble Preview: The Anatomy of What Goes Into a Stock Campaign Release   
    Wicky, when people talk about battles on  "The Eastern Front" they don't mean a council estate in Harwich.
  20. Like
  21. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Combatintman in Trying to use real world tactics   
    Although this uses WW2 Eastern Front as the example - an example of planning using modern planning techniques which may be of use:
    No Plan Survives First Contact With The Enemy - Planning Tutorial - Combat Mission Red Thunder - Battlefront.com Community
  22. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Bil Hardenberger in Trying to use real world tactics   
    Some very good posts in this thread!  Kudos to all who contributed, you guys know your stuff.
    @Flibby  I HIGHLY recommend Combat-Man's tutorial posted above.. it is simply the best thread on the topic I have seen.
    For more on applying real world tactics check out my Battle Drill blog, especially the tactical Toolbox on the left hand side. 
    My personal battle planning philosophy relies on:
    Maintaining flexibility  Identifying the enemy formation (order of battle)  Identifying the enemy defenses and/or movements  Identifying the enemy intent  Then applying that information to enable me to hit him where he is weakest with my main combat power The key is the last bullet... if you can identify where your opponent is weak.. THAT is where you want to hit him with as much combat power as you can muster.  I do step through the above concepts in my AARs and on my blog. 
    Keep attacking!  Bil
  23. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to Combatintman in Fire and Rubble Preview: The Anatomy of What Goes Into a Stock Campaign Release   
    Well that is not true as there are conjoined buildings on the screenshots.  There could be a number of reasons for how the map has been put together which could be:
    Absence of decent imagery or town plans for Tukums in the late war period. The limitations imposed by the building picks in the editor. How to fit them on the action square grid. Working buildings into the required area within the limits of the north, south, east, west, north east, north west, south east and south west options available in the editor. Urban areas in particular in the map editor require huge compromises - churches for instance can only be north, east, south or west oriented.  Buildings on diagonals are generally larger than you want them to be if you want to replicate every single building on a real world map.  Then of course there is the issue of whether you think including the street furniture (lamp posts, telegraph poles, road signage etc) is important and whether you want those houses that have gardens and fences to have those gardens and fences and testing and adjusting as necessary.
  24. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    On to Ethiopia. 
    The obvious roots of this conflict extend into Italy' history of defeat and humiliation by the Ethiopians at the Battle of Adwa. A battle for which the memory of was fresh in Mussolini's Generals, and none of them were eager to repeat the mistake although paranoia about such may have led to Emilio De Bono's extreme wavering between bouts of over caution and reckless overextension. Of greater proximity was the growing nervousness of Italian colonial authorities in Eritrea and Somalia of Ethiopia's arms imports, much of which the Italians themselves had been selling to the Ethiopians until Mussolini halted further sales of weapons into Abyssinia. Italian colonial authorities were extremely bigoted, and their exaggerations of perceived insults, slights, and threats from Addis Ababa dovetailed with Rome's condescending rhetoric of Italy's "civilizing mission" in Africa. All in all, Mussolini had little difficulty steering Fascist Italy into this war. His was briefly held up over concern about how France and England might react, and then again by border crisis after the Nazi's assassination of the Austrian Prime Minister that year, but he eventually got soft guarantees from England and France that neither country would intervene in his plot and then the Nazis backed down from further meddling in Austria for the time being. 
    Ethiopia was a loosely aligned Kingdom of tribal ras or local fiefdom's barely united under a loosely translated Emperor or Negus who in theory was military supremo of the Empire. In 1928 ras Tafari became Emperor Haile Selassie. The new Emperor was aware of the Italian's plans to invade and motioned for the League of Nations to guarantee Ethiopia's sovereignty but to little avail. Mussolini began referring to Ethiopia as a "looming military menace" endangering Eritrea and Somalia and by August of 1935 he had written British intervention off entirely. Although he, Badoglio and Admiral Cavagnari (head of Regia Marina) were given a brief scare when the Home Fleet redeployed to the Mediterranean, Mussolini was shortly thereafter given reassurances by Dino Grandi from a leaked Admiralty report that war with Italy was to be avoided. Italian leadership was remarkably frightened over the prospect of War with the British, and no moment seems to have come closer to derailing the entire invasion than the prospect of British intervention. 
    Six Metropolitan, two Native Divisions, and an additional eight battalions (110,000 men) were earmarked for an invasion under Emilio De Bono that commenced in October 1935. Progress was rapid at first with De Bono's forces advancing in three prongs south toward Addis Ababa. Adigrat and Adwa fell in less than 3 days. However, Haile Selassie had commanded his ras to fight indirectly-ie to fight as guerillas-while he organized a force of three Armies from the center of the country. De Bono's advance faltered and by November had halted well short of the capital. Badoglio was furious, and dropped a report on Mussolini's desk criticizing De Bono's conduct. Although the advance resumed by the middle of the month the weather turned bad and his advance again lost momentum. By around this stage the Halie Selassie had gathered an Army of 150,000 men to oppose the invasion, and De Bono was relieved and replaced by Badoglio. 
    Although Badoglio had criticized De Bono for excessive caution once he took control of the invasion he had good reason to keep being cautious. De Bono's force was badly over extended and Haile Selassie was in a good position to punish any mistakes by the Italians. An infamous incident in December occurred in which a platoon of 8 Italian tankettes (I think L3s) were overrun and destroyed by Ethiopian infantry-who were able to cripple the tanks by bending their machine guns and dropping hand grenades in their radiators-only four tank crewmen escaped. Mussolini was enraged by the humiliation of this event but Badoglio was able to calm him afterward by emphasizing it as a small loss and highlighting that he would soon open his grand assault on Selassie's Armies. 
    Badoglio redeployed the invasion force to secure its flanks one of which was being threatened by a 40,000 strong Ethiopian Army near Amba Aradam to his west. Regia Aeronautica was unleashed, using both conventional and chemical munitions on Ethiopian positions, at one point Mussolini suggested the use of biological weapons too, but Badoglio vetoed this. Throughout the conflict Badoglio, Mussolini, and the rest of Commando Supremo held no compunctions toward the use of chemical weapons on civilian and military targets, and Addis Ababa was bombed regularly. 
    The Italians would isolate Ethiopian Armies and positions from each other and then bomb them with impunity using a mixture of aerial and artillery attacks. In one battle 22,000 shells were fired at Ethiopian positions of which 1,367 were gas, although the Italians felt they had little effect on the mountainous positions. In February the Battle of Enderta-the largest battle of the war- happened. The Italians had over 280 guns fire 23,000 rounds while Regia Aeronautica conducted 44 sorties per day at one point dropping around 29,000lbs of explosives on the Ethiopians. The Ethiopians launched many aggressive counter attacks during the battle but Italian field artillery broke them up every time. Badoglio made few mistakes in his tactical conduct, Italian troops were instructed to advance under the protective umbrella of machine gun and artillery fire focused on Ethiopian positions which the infantry would occupy after they'd been smashed by support fire. Not exactly innovative tactics, but effective as 1918 had shown. 
    Up until now the campaign's success had been greatly attributable to the skill with which the Italians managed their logistics. Five Army Corps were kept supplied 400km from the nearest port by over 900 trucks. Aerial supply drops were used and the combined effort of 10,000 pack animals, sent 22,000,000 rounds of ammunition and 200,000 rounds of artillery shells to Italian frontline troops. Italian field kitchens were well stocked with with frozen meat, milk, jam, dried fruit, and biscuits. Even wine, tobacco, and mineral water were in supply. Each Corp had a surgery unit, and two field hospitals for each Division. I can't imagine the Italians were ever this well organized again. 
    In March Halie Selassie made a last ditch effort near Mai Ceu to defeat the Italians. Throwing in all of the Ethiopian Army still under his command, plus his Imperial Guard, the Ethiopians conducted an enormous human-wave assault much of which was directed at the Pusteria Division. The Italians were simply too well armed though, and by the end of the battle suffered only around 800-900 casualties while the Ethiopians probably lost around 7,000 men. The situation further worsened when Graziani's 38,000 strong motorized Army in Somalia invaded from the south. He was just outside Addis Ababa in less than two weeks.
    In May 1937 Badoglio entered Addis Ababa, an Eritrean column had already been encamped just outside the city before he arrived, but the Italians demanded that the honor of reaching the capital go to Italy's white troops who took all the credit. Badoglio did not remain long after his victory parade. He was eager to return to Rome in order to take on the mantle of Mussolini's conquering General in order to wrongfoot his (many) rivals in the military as the chosen one. Badoglio was something of an odd pick for Military poster child. He was an old man and known for being pro-monarchist not really fitting the Young Revolutionary Zealot image the Fascists were fostering. But he came back to Rome that year a ruthless conqueror played up in the image of a conquering Roman General and for the Fascists and Mussolini a great (if not perfect) icon of their New World Order. 
    Halie Selassie fled in early May, advised by the French not to put the 6,000 white residents of Addis Ababa at risk by trying to defend it. He boarded a British cruiser at Djibouti to sail for Haifa and then went into exile in Bath, England. He couldn't have known that in five years he would return to his nation, but for now Ethiopia became another forgotten blunder in the Allies' pre-war appeasement policies toward Fascism before the Second World War. 
    Some technical details.
    By the end of the conflict Italian forces in Abyssinia grew to around 477,000 complete with 1,500 field guns and howitzers, 500 tanks (which do not seem to have played a major role in the fighting), 450 aircraft (which played a decisive role), and were supported by 103,000 pack animals and 19,000 motor vehicles. Casualties for the Italians were light, just under 3,000 white soldiers and 1,457 ascari died while a bit over 11,000 (total) were wounded. 275,000 Ethiopians died. 
    In hindsight, there was very little the Ethiopians could have done to avoid catastrophe. The Ethiopians possessed no artillery and vehicles, their heaviest weapons were foreign supplied Oerlikon guns of which there were few and many men had little more than blades and muskets. 
    In the words of Gooch "success gave rise to dangerous illusions". Badoglio became convinced that the three regiment Infantry Divisions were too heavy and hard to maneuver, and he began to back the idea of binary two-regiment infantry divisions which would be implemented a few years later. This organization would leave Italian troops at a major local-manpower disadvantage against much larger British, French, and American formations began to turn up in the World War. 
    Regia Aeronautica flew 50,000 hours and dropped 1,800 tons of bombs. Eight aircraft were lost to ground fire, 131 aircrew were lost in total, the overwhelming majority to accidents. The RA achieved remarkable success supporting troop movements and providing aerial reconnaissance and supply to ground forces, gas bombing had proven not terribly effective and in the future less of it would be done while the RA remained convinced that terror bombing of cities was an effective strategy for breaking resistance. The next conflict would have consequences for that kind of disregard. 
    Regia Marina for the first time played a major role in an Italian war. The Navy carried a bit under 600,000 men and 630,000 tons of supplies to the Horn of Africa enabling the construction of "six major bases, eighteen airports with 84 satellite strips" for the prosecution of the invasion. Over 950,000,000 lire was spent on hiring ships and paying Suez Canal tolls. 
    The Army experienced an enlistment boom, with 17,000 reserve officers putting in requests to serve. Growth in manpower reserves was unmatched since the First World War although much of it went into the Metropolitan Divisions which had been stripped of their equipment to feed the Invasion force. Mussolini was greatly encouraged by the success of Italian forces in the war, with Badoglio quoted "with soldiers like these, Italy can dare all". Although not right around the corner, humiliation was not much further away. 
    Although successful the war proved expensive. 12,111,000,000 lire and one third of Italy's gold reserves were expended. Despite Fascist posturing and claims of the rich rewards that would come from an African conquest, the Italian people did not benefit in any way from the war. Between 1935 and 1936 the cost of living in Italy actually rose more than 7%, reaching 9.5% by 1937 while domestic prices increased by one-third. In hindsight, almost nothing was gained by the conquest except arrogance and prestige both of which the Fascist regime-and only the Fascist Regime-valued. 
    The war was a humanitarian catastrophe aggravated by Fascist cruelty none of which was necessary and likely all of which was counter-productive to Italian victory. Halie Selassie was not well liked by his ras but faced by Italian terrors attacks on civilians his fiefdoms rallied behind him until-ground down by Italy's superior firepower-they simply lacked the strength to do so anymore. By engaging in this sort of pointless torture the Italians likely increased the difficulties they faced in the war and drew out the fighting plus all of the expense. By itself Italy's finances might've been able to walk it off but the next conflict Mussolini planned on embroiling his country in would serve as the 2nd part of a ruinous one-two punch that would leave Italy totally unready for the World War. 
    Next up in the Mediterranean Misadventures of Mussolini, Spain. 
  25. Upvote
    BletchleyGeek reacted to SimpleSimon in John Gooch releases sequel to first book. "Mussolini's War"   
    A few years ago I had the pleasure of reading Gooch's book on the emergence and peculiar nature of the Military-Fascist "interdynamic" in Mussolini's Italy and the consequences that pattern of organization had on Italy's war effort. As Gooch admitted at the the time, the book was mostly about the theory and planning phase of Fascist Rearmament of Italy through the 1920s and 30s and terminating just before 1940 when Italy jumped into the Second World War as a major combatant. At the time Gooch stated (ominously lol) that an examination of the "applied" effort of Italy in the World War would require a new, separate book. Good on his threat, Gooch's new book "Mussolini's War" has come out on Amazon Kindle as of December and i've begun to read it. 
    Gooch's highly dialectical and sober analysis of Fascist Italy's preparations for war was a book I found both intriguing and enlightening, and gives one a pretty important perspective on how authoritarian and totalitarian states still require a functional state bureaucracy and a degree of popular consent in order to function properly. Even more crucially how a failure to ensure good cooperation and communication between arms of the state from the military to private enterprise can lead to failure and-under abnormally heavy load-catastrophic structural failure, in this case of the Italian state's war effort against the Allied powers. Under Mussolini's leadership however cooperation was a byword for weakness and the Duce-less successfully than Hitler-often attempted to play his Generals and Ministers against each other under the presumption that his own position would be strengthened by the weakening of his competitors within the highly Piedmontese-Monarchist military establishment. This was never the case. Instead Mussolini frequently found himself embroiled in inter-office disputes between the various branches of the military which served only to obfuscate and distort reality as all 3 branches of the military (air, sea, and land) lobbied against eachother to achieve the Dictator's blessing. Their own (incorrect) assumption being that Mussolini's personal backing would result in the release of state funding to secure means to achieve ends. This did not transpire either. 
    In reality, Mussolini's fascist reorganization of Italy-although not lacking in brutality and ruthlessness-never achieved the level of coordination the Nazis managed in Germany who effectively turned the entire state into an apparatus of the military-industrial complex. Italy required far more in the way of consent and was especially complicated by Mussolini's decision to retain the monarchy and operate at the consent of a semi-democratic Fascist Council he chaired. This system might not have proven fatal by itself, but under Mussolini's embattled, cynical worldview it certainly proved to be. 
    So i've just started the new book, (ie: Mussolini's War) on the Italian War Effort-Applied. I'll be posting my various notes and reactions to events as I go. I've already completed the section on the Abyssinian War which i'll be pointing out some notes and reactions too later on. 
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