Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by wadinga » Tue Jan 15, 2019 9:14 pm

Hello Alberto,
Therefore Cernuschi's LOS article, albeit very interesting about Supermarina intercepted messages in Atlantic, must be taken with some suspicion
We agree at last! Except I personally consider all Signor Cernuschi's articles should be treated, on principle, with considerable suspicion. Any details available the grounds for his "divorce" with Storia Militare by whom he was published?

Mention of his contentious allegations of Royal Navy cover-ups and "propaganda" stories are discussed here:

kbismarck.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6776

The Italian Navy had submarines operating in the Battle of the Atlantic, based in Bordeaux (Betacom), integrated and co-operating with Doenitz' fleet. Intelligence must have flowed back and forth freely. Submarines Tazzoli, Marconi and Otaria all sank merchant ship victims in May, Barbarigo was stationed in a group with U-74 Kentrat, and other U-boats as a protection for the returning Bismarck in the Western Bay of Biscay. On the 30th May Veniero, operating with six other Italian subs W of Gibraltar, missed one of Ark Royal's escorts as Force H returned after the carrier's Swordfish had crippled Bismarck, and handed her to the Home Fleet for the Coup de Grace. Chronology of War at Sea Vol 2 Rohwer and Hummelchen

This is hardly the place to discuss, but surely the naval battle for Crete was marked by 100%, total, Axis air superiority?


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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:00 am

Hello everybody,
Wadinga wrote: "surely the naval battle for Crete was marked by 100%, total, Axis air superiority"
...the same local air superiority German and Italian Air Force had guaranteed to Iachino during the Matapan disaster ? No surprise the Comando Supremo decided not to risk other ships based on such optimistic declarations, especially when Italians were investigating a possible spy breech, being unaware of the Enigma message to Rhodes decoded by the British and were now fully aware that British had powerful radar equipments.

Thus no surprise that Supermarina was ordered not to act out of the range of Italian land-based interceptors, basically in the Sicily Channel only.


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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by RF » Wed Jan 16, 2019 9:21 am

Matapan might well have come as a shock to the Italian Navy with the loss of cruisers, however surely not quite the same level of shock as the loss of HMS Hood was to the Royal Navy.

There is a stark contrast here between the attitudes of Mussolini and Churchill. Declaring war and then forbidding attack when attack was needed does confirm to me that the Duce was the worst military commander on either side of WW2. Whatever happened to the dictat of ''better to live the day of a lion than a hundred years as a sheep?''
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:20 am

Hello everybody,
RF wrote: "surely not quite the same level of shock as the loss of HMS Hood was to the Royal Navy"
IMO Matapan impact was much worse. Hood destruction happened during a battle while she was fighting and Hood was a symbol, but everybody at the highest level was aware of its vulnerability.
At Matapan 2300 Italian sailors were killed, 3 out of the 4 modern heavy cruisers and 2 good destroyers were sunk, Vittorio Veneto (the only modern battleship available at the time) was severely damaged and the whole Italian battlefleet was "humiliated" by Cunningham determination.

Matapan "surprise" was interpreted by Italians (who ignored that Enigma message to Rhodes with the announcement of the date of the operation had been decrypted) as a possible case of espionage at the highest military levels, plus it revealed to the commanders all the weaknesses of the Italian Navy equipments (carriers, radars, night fighting, projectors, star shells).

RF wrote: "confirm to me that the Duce was the worst military commander on either side of WW2"
agree he was very, very bad, but IMO Hitler was more strategically "stupid", insisting to bomb London, not getting the entire French fleet (in efficiency) + naval bases and logistic as clause to accept a French unconditional surrender, declaring the war to Russia, then sacrificing the VI army, then....
Both were very bad as supreme commanders at sea, but I agree the Duce was tactically bad also in single ground ops.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by RF » Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:49 pm

Alberto,

My comment about Matapan not being as much of a shock in comparison to Hood was based on cruisers being destroyed by battleship guns at almost point blank range, a calamity that could befall any navy - even the RN had inadvertently invited it on 27 May 1941 when Norfolk went perilously close to Bismarck due to identification errors and had Bismarck been on full alert...….. Even at the DS battle it could have been very different - Hood had opened fire om Prinz Eugen and a direct hit from a 15 inch shell could have blown her out of the water.

I think the problem here is that Supermarina failed to evaluate properly what did happen and learn from the experience. I also think that apart from the problems you mention there was a more serious deficiency, namely the complete lack of pre-war combat experience of Italian naval forces. In my view this was exemplified by gunnery deficiencies that were apparent in the early engagements in the Med and Red Sea.

With respect to the military leadership qualities of the Axis leaders I would consider Hitler as about the best (by default). Where Hitler came unstuck was in not understanding how to fight a defensive war against a stronger attacker. Prior to 1942 it was Hitler who forced the blitzkrieg tactics devised by junior officers such as Guderian, Manstain and Rommel on to a conservative, reluctant Army General Staff, Hitler who promoted the invasion of Norway ahead of the attack in the West, Hitler who took the advice of Manstain to invade France through the Ardennes instead of a Schlieffen Plan Mark 2 that the General Staff wanted. Even the lenient terms to France in June 1940 would have made sense if Britain had been encouraged by that leniency to come to terms with Hitler in July 1940 - if Halifax had been Prime Minister instead of Churchill I am quite sure that would have happened.

But this is all to digress. There is perhaps another way of looking at the Italian Navy situation. If todays' Italian naval leadership was in charge of the RM in 1940 would they not have looked at the situation differently and assess properly what did happen and how to deal with it?
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:37 pm

Hi RF,
while I see your point about RM pre-war lack of preparation, my point about the "shock" was not meant at all as a "surprise" because some cruisers were destroyed by battleships.
I meant the total effect inflicted to the "small" Italian Navy (already weakened by Taranto attack) by the loss and damages of so many men and ships compared to the single loss of Hood for the much bigger RN: apart from being a symbol, Hood was one of three battlecruisers and 13 battleships available and her deficiencies against modern battleships were well known by the Admiralty. But mostly, the shock for the Hood loss was "compensated" three days later by the Bismarck loss (a great victory), while Matapan was not. Had Bismarck got to Brest after ruling the whole HF (including Tovey), the shock could have been severe also for the RN.

For the RM it was also a shock to fully understand (even if advise had been given already) that
1) British had and used the radar in a way that gave them total superiority, at least at night (at Gaudo day battle, radar did not help much Pridham_Wippell's cruisers, when VV saw and almost surprised them despite 2 cruisers had the radar)
2) that they were trained to night fighting by usage of better stabilized projectors (they had not been used by the RM to direct fire, only to "see in the darkness", due to lack of stabilization) and of better star shells (longer range, higher luminosity, more duration),
3) that the lack of carriers could in no way be compensated by the land based airplanes (even when Germans were supporting as during Matapan),
4) that British had a way to know in advance about the Italian plans (espionage was suspected, Enigma decoding was not),
plus (from Gaudo) 5) that Italian shells/ammunition were not of a quality able to satisfy the requirements of a moder war at sea (salvo dispersion of VV at Gaudo prevented to score hits on the cruiser despite a very good precision at long ranges with relatively bad visibility).

I totally disagree with you regarding the RM that "failed to evaluate properly what did happen and learn from the experience": apart from Enigma, RM learnt what could be learnt and acted immediately on all the above points (with different results in the 2 and half years that were available and with the fuel problem more and more limiting the fleet opportunity to train), following the meeting of Iachino with Campioni, Riccardi and with the Duce on May 31st, just after he got back from Matapan (as described at length in Iachino's books):
1) radar development was re-started and Germans were required for assistance and help: only by 1943 however, radars could be implemented onboard and the Armistice followed immediately.
2) night fighting training was immediately started, star shells ameliorated and night fire direction (that lacked for main guns) was implemented on board (mostly using secondary guns directors, as bypass. Also reduced-flash powder was produced and given to the ships. Only projectors for fire direction were not used before the armistice.
3) carriers building / other ships transformation were immediately approved (but it was obviously too late before the armistice to get Aquila and Sparviero to join the fleet.
4) no real lesson learnt
5) quality controls over shells and ammunition producers were enforced and (according to Iachino) they gave good results, diminishing the dispersion to "acceptable" values as per last gunnery trainings.



Regarding Hitler, I have said he was better than the Duce as a "soldier" (tactically and planning ground operations), however he was much worse strategically, e.g. declaring war to Russia instead of convincing Franco (or forcing Spain) in order to allow Germans to seize and to get Gibraltar (the Duce form his side should have seized and got Malta instead of attacking Greece).
IMO the "mild" conditions imposed to France were a very serious error: to force Britain to peace, the French ships and bases could have been a good "currency of exchange" and a very valuable asset not to be given away before the peace negotiations with Britain were at a good point. For sure, showing "weakness" was not helping convincing British to find a compromise with him...
Just my two cents opinion of course as I don't pretend to be an expert of military "strategy" at all.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by RF » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:07 am

Alberto,

Thank you for the analysis in your last post, it is most illuminating about the Italian naval position from 1941 onwards.
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by wadinga » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:12 pm

Hello All,

returning to the thread subject

4) that British had a way to know in advance about the Italian plans (espionage was suspected, Enigma decoding was not)


Alongside Signor Cernuschi's Flights of Fantasy, he does seem to have done some actual historical work of value and his book with co-author Vincent O'Hara "The Other Ultra" is reviewed by the US War College review 2013 O’Hara, Vincent P. and Cernuschi, Enrico (2013) "The Other Ultra,"Naval War College Review: Vol. 66 : No. 3 , Article 9. Available at:https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/nwc-r ... l66/iss3/9

Here are some relevant excerpts from the review. There is no doubt some writers (mainly British) have over-emphasised Bletchley-Park's importance in the overall picture and exposure of both B-Dienst and Italian decoding successes is long overdue to regain some balance.

It also casts light on the role of the Italian navy’s intelligence service, the Servizio Informazioni Segreto (SIS). The SIS provided intelligence that often offset the timely and relevant ULTRA SIGINT that Britain did possess. Its code breakers enabled Supermarina, the operational headquarters, located in Rome, of the Regia Marina, the Italian navy, to read, often in less than an hour, intercepted low-grade radio encryptions from British aircraft, and, more slowly, first-class ciphers from warships and land bases. Supermarina’s communications and command system disseminated information in near real time, thereby amplifying the operational value of its SIGINT. This is a fact that the British were unaware of at the time and that has remained virtually unknown since.
SIS manned 150 radio-interception stations throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East and operated motor fishing vessels in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as spy ships. As the war progressed Section B became the navy’s most important source of intelligence, and its personnel grew from two dozen in 1940 to over two hundred by 1942, within an overall SIS staff of about a thousand. The SIS handled the bulk of naval intelligence activity in the Mediterranean, because German Abwehr (military intelligence) efforts were concentrated on Allied Atlantic radio traffic and Russian signals. Past practice had established a procedure wherein the Axis partners made a joint effort to crack high-value messages via teleprinter link between the two navies’ intelligence services. Such coordination, however, diminished with time, and by July 1942 cooperation was minimal: the Germans considered the Italians undisciplined, the Italians found the Germans arrogant, and neither trusted the other.
...
This detailed examination of SIGINT’s role—both British and Italian—in the traffic war fought during these critical months suggests that Great Britain’s offensive use of SIGINT was largely negated by Italy’s defensive SIGINT. ULTRA did not deny the Axis armies the supplies they needed to reach the Nile—if indeed a lack of supplies was the cause of the Axis failure. This reality is obscured by the fact that historians have overreached for evidence to prove the power of signals intelligence

However when unshackled from Mr O'Hara's restraining effect Signor Cernuschi has apparently gone into full revisionist anti-British overdrive and published Ultra: La fine di la Mitro (the End of the Myth) in which his assertions of lies and cover-ups by British writers on Ultra's successes are given full rein. Italian language commenters https://www.altomareblu.com/ultra-mito- ... chi/?br=ro have highlighted his dismissal of even eminent Italian writers like Professor Santorini “Il vero traditore – Il ruolo documentato di ULTRA nella guerra del Mediterraneo”, Mursia, 1981 (The true traitor – ULTRA’s documented role in the Mediterranean war at sea). who acknowledged the damage ULTRA did.

In Warship 2018 he has written an article which I am looking forward to reading:

“Breaking ‘Ultra’: The Cryptologic and Intelligence War Between Britain and Italy 1931-1943” (Enrico Cernuschi). Debunks some of the myths that have arisen from the successes of ‘Ultra’ and provides information on some largely ignored exploits of Italian codebreakers.

All the best

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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:37 pm

Hello everybody,
while I agree that the Supermarina SIS (as well as B-Dienst) was able to decode some messages during single operations and the efforts of the Italian codebreakers have almost always been understated and not enough recognized, I'm not aware of any spectacular decoding unveiling with large advance a large, delicate Allied operation (e.g. the date of the attack against Taranto with 3 days advance or the date of the D-Day...), allowing an efficient counter-operation.

This was the case with the ULTRA decoded Enigma message (below) about the RM operation on March 25, 1941, three days before Matapan (as well as it was with the ULTRA decoding of the messages to Scharnhorst, including the timing at which Scharnhorst should have sailed to try to attack the JW55B: "Ostfront 17:00", if I remember correctly)...

Figura_2_1.jpg
Figura_2_1.jpg (55.17 KiB) Viewed 1395 times

Apparently the British were much more cautious about sending vital info via radio, while the confidence in Enigma safeness resulted in major defeats for the Axis.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by pgollin » Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:10 pm

.

The main problem I have with the Italian naval leadership (REMEMBERING that they were hampered by the politicians) is with the mercantile war.

The Italians "should" have prepared for contested supply efforts to North Africa to support their colonies. This would be true against just the French, let alone the UK as well. However, the escort force was poor, and poorly equipped. the North African ports were ill prepared and of limited capacity.

When it became clear that the mercantile war was going to be vital the Italian navy's leadership failed. It did not produce lots of escorts, did not produce anywhere enough ASDIC (Sonar) sets for the ones they did build, did not upgrade the North Italian ports, etc......

.

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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:14 pm

Hello everybody,

while I agree about the deficiencies of the preparation to the war in terms of escort ships, ports and anti-submarine equipment, I don't think the RM supply efforts to Lybia were unsuccessful.
The supply lines were almost always kept open (at the cost of extremely heavy losses: 4 cruisers, 26 destroyers, 10 submarines and 47 small units + 342 merchant ships for 1.3 millions tons and 13000 men), delivering however almost 2 millions tons supplies and almost 200,000 soldiers (including Germans) with 13% losses against the total shipped (source: Marc'Antonio Bragadin, Il dramma della Marina Italiana 1940-1945).

As I have pointed out above in this same thread, "soft" conditions of the armistice with France prevented the Axis from freely and effectively using Tunisia (and its air fields, "conceded to Vichy government instead of being seized) as the base for North-Africa operations, that would have simplified enormously the problem of delivering supplies, not having to pass "close" to Malta, with a much shorter trip.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by RF » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:39 am

Or , better still, launch an invasion of Malta at the point of declaring war on 10 June 1940..... just as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at the point they declared war.
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:53 am

Hi RF,
I fully agree: with Malta taken (and possibly Tunisia under full Axis control), it would have been much easier to supply the North Africa theater, making more difficult Alexandria situation.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by RF » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:09 am

Indeed.

With a full war plan, the Italians could have attacked Malta with a surprise attack, destroy the ships of the Mediteranean Fleet that were in Valleta harbour, take the island and then follow up with seaborne landings around Alexandria to facilitate speedy capture of the Suez Canal. The focus can then move (once the rest of Egypt is occupied) to East Africa where the Italian Navy can be passed into the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Kenya can be invaded, posing a major threat to the British and South African interests further south. As part of the naval strategy Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Bismarck in 1941 could have been routed to the Indian Ocean instead of the Biscay ports and join up with the Italian Fleet - with the prospect of Japanese collaboration as well.....
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Re: Le Bismarck & Supermarina. LOS! Nº42

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:21 am

Indeed,

luckily for freedom, the Axis did not have such a good plan, not speaking of the Spain and Gibraltar, that should have been taken as well.
Especially Italians were unprepared and entered war just to be on the "winner side" at the peace table, without any solid strategy behind.


Bye, Alberto
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