German heavy ships

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
phil gollin
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:18 pm

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Francis Marliere :

I have, carefully, not entered into the operational aspects of the Italian navy in WW2. However, I would note that your appreciation that they kept the SLC open is, again, rather careful wording. They did not dispatch sufficient goods and they did not protect sufficiently the goods that were sent. In essence they "failed" (not totally, but effectively they did). It is not a matter of opinion unless you are one author who cherry-picks their quote to find one of the very, very few German Generals who thought the Axis had sufficient supplies.

ASDIC, as an example that you quote is an excellent example of how badly the naval staff did perform. It has nothing to do with the industrial state of Italy, the number of sets required was miniscule and could have been turned out by any university or small electrical manufacturer.

Radar and air co-operation I will certainly acknowledge is beyond the scope of a simple Naval Staff responsibility, there the causes go much more diffuse to the upper enchelons of the Italian state.

The Naval Staff WAS mostly to blame for the lack of fuel. It should have planned for low fuel supplies. It should have stock-piled oil and built secure storage (as was done by other nations). Why should Italy be somehow immune to such criticism ? Again, do not just fall back on Mussolini - the Naval Staff should have planned properly, as did (at least partly) other nations naval staffs.

My criticism is not based on wartime propaganda, but more a backlash against poor history writing by the modern "apologists". All I ask for is a level playing field where what is right or wrong for the Germans, British, French etc... is also right or wrong for the Italians. This is palpably not the case.

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phil gollin
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:26 pm

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LWD :

Your answers show that you are merely parrotting the excuses, not explaining away the failures of the Naval Staff.

a: No, they only temporarily piled up in North Africa. The main problem was in Italy. And, of course, coastal traffic in North Africa would have helped.

b: ----

c: The British ran the convoys they needed and used the harbours to capacity.

d and e : Pre-war planning ?

f: What limitations ?

g: --------

h: Yes, with of course the problem of interference on major items. But the organisation, supply, training and running was their concern.

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Francis Marliere
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by Francis Marliere » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:39 pm

Phil,

I don't think that we should blame RM for the lack of fuel. As far as I know, RM did have strategic reserves, but they were hijacked by the Air Force, which had none, at the beginning of the war. Blaming the navy for not having an efficient sonar is also unfair since the navies that had sonar were more the exception than the rules. And the lack of sonar is the consequence of the failure of Italian prototype. Naval staff has its share of responsability but should not the only guilty.

BTW I think we disagree because we are not talking of the same thing. I may be mistaken, but I feel that you are talking about the high command while I am talking about the navy in general. Hence I point that RM had fine ships and courageous sailors who fought under very difficult circumstances. If we only talk about strategy, well, it is IMHO more difficult to find something positive. I fear that you also miss the point (I probably wasn't very clear - forgive me, my English is not very good) that I didn't prise the Italian navy but said that it performed better than generally though, and with hindsight, did well considering the circumstances. While the Italian army and air forces were definitively second rate ones, the navy was the only service with modern and powerful weapons.

Regards,

Francis Marliere

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RF
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by RF » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:03 pm

phil gollin wrote:.
RF
Your detour to genocide is ridiculous.

The role of the Naval Staff is to plan, organise, supply and train the navy. This the Italian Naval Staff failed to do. Since when has a Naval Staff depended upon a politican to define everything it should do ?
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You say that the detour to genocide is ridiculous but you do not provide a reasoned argument against it.

I repeat - in a dictatorship the dictator makes the decisions. The naval staff have to plan, organise, supply and train the navy within the limits and objectives given to them by the dictator. Mussolini, amongst his other posts, was Minister for War in Italy in 1940. So the naval staff have to operate to what Mussolini's orders are. There were no orders to plan for war. In a dictatorship military staff usually cannot act very far without the authority of the dictator, certainly in matters of strategy and strategic planning.

In a democracy such as Britain and the USA it is the politicians and civilian government that decides foreign and defence policy. The general and service staffs operate to the policies and decisions given to them by the politicians. That is the case for the US Navy and the RN in dealing with for example the conflict in Afghanistan. They have to plan to the political decisions. But at least there is an active channel of command so the staffs can do their job. Something that was lacking in Fascist Italy from 1938 onwards.
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by RF » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:16 pm

phil gollin wrote:.
My criticism is not based on wartime propaganda, but more a backlash against poor history writing by the modern "apologists". All I ask for is a level playing field where what is right or wrong for the Germans, British, French etc... is also right or wrong for the Italians. This is palpably not the case.
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I am not really clear what this paragraph is about.

The Italians didn't properly plan - agreed. But the Germans did plan - because Hitler issued war directives which required plans to be done for his approval. Similary the British, Americans and Russians also had a clearly defined command structure which allowed everybody to do their jobs. As did the Japanese even though their grand strategy was wrong.

The Italians were not the only ones who didn't plan. The same is true of Hungary and Romania once they had fallen into the Axis and became prisoners of Hitler, tied to Germanys' fortunes with no get out apart from military defeat. The Finns didn't plan properly in 1941 but at least Mannerheim was able to get his country out of a sticky situation in 1944.

This is not based on prejudice or propaganda, but my reading of the situation. Of course if I am wrong I look forward to seeing reasoned argument explaining why.
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by lwd » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:18 pm

phil gollin wrote:... Your answers show that you are merely parrotting the excuses, not explaining away the failures of the Naval Staff.
I don't think so but yours clearly show that you have already decided the matter and are imune to logic or fact.
a: No, they only temporarily piled up in North Africa.
That is not the impression I have. Can you support this? I've given up counter arguments as you don't seem to be willing to consider them.
And, of course, coastal traffic in North Africa would have helped.
Helped certainly but if the army hadn't specified the need wh should the navy have done anything to expedite it? Then there's the question if they were even responsible for it. In the US for instance this would now fall under army control in all probability. It may well have at the time as well.
c: The British ran the convoys they needed and used the harbours to capacity.
And you have proof that given the constraints they were operating under the Italians didn't? Indeed I ask again was this even an Italian Navy problem.
f: What limitations ?
I've mentioned them a fair few times already. No point in doing it again if you aren't listening.
h: Yes, with of course the problem of interference on major items. But the organisation, supply, training and running was their concern.
[/quote]
How many times do I have to say it. It's not just major items its the budget.

phil gollin
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:33 am

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Francis Marliere :

Yes, I am, essentially, talking about the High Command (I have tried to be specific about this) and its effect on the performance of the navy. The High Command failed and this meant that is areas the operational Italian navy didn't have the tools or techniques to "win". This tends to be ignored by modern authors.

Fuel is a good example. In any war Italy would have had problems of supply. It is inconceivable that they would have got ship-borne supplies (except possibly across the Aegean and that would have been vulnerable. Land-based supplies would, also, have been prone to attack from the air. Hence (AS WITH THE ROYAL NAVY) there should have been measures put in place to provide additional storage (both fortifies and defended) sufficient to withstand perceived requirements. THIS was something that the RN looked at, decided that needed action and DID something about. The RM did not.

I am not criticising the RM for a lack of an "efficient" ASDICs, but of sufficient - i.e. they didn't build enough.

The Italian navy operationally did "fail" considering their strategic position. They "should" have done better, and the reason that they didn't is mainly down to itself in the form of the High Command. They failed in the merchantile war because of poor pre-war preparations (in Italy and North Africa), having the wrong types and numbers of ships, having insufficient equipment, wrong tactics and not being flexible in their response. Now that was the effect of their poor High Command on their operations. "Operationally" even with the poor hand dealt them the operational side of the Navy might have done better (who can tell ?) but the High Command is part of the navy.

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phil gollin
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:35 am

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RF - re. your first post :-

No. The Naval High Command still had the responsibility to run the navy - this they failed to do.

Il Duce did not interfere in all those minor matters where the High Command failed.

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RF - re. your second post :-

I think (????) that you have now stood on your head and now agree with me that the Naval High Command failed, thank-you (????)

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phil gollin
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:45 am

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LWD

You seem not to be answering most of the points, however on the ones where you have put something of substance ;

Coastal traffic would have required (as happened elsewhere) requisitioned merchant shipping - definately a naval concern.

Re. harbour capapcity yes there is a prme example where the Italians moaned about capacity (a pre-war failure) but when a couple of bombed/sunk ships were used as bases for offloading more capacity suddenly appeared ! More could have been done. If one looks at, for instance, Tripoli harbour it is NOT a major undertaking, merely low breakwaters with minimal other works, so blockships would have helped. Look at the Mulberry harbours - THAT is what could be done.

Just try to reason.

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Re: German heavy ships

Post by RF » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:56 am

Phil,

As lwd has already commented you are not listening or responding to the posts either he or I are making. You are merely repeating over and over again the same soundbites over an alleged failure of Supermarina. That they didn't plan isn't in dispute. But they didn't plan properly because they were not fully able to, as they had no control over the direction of Italian policy.
Absolving Mussolini from all blame from Italy's failure to prepare properly for war is like saying that Italy's defeat in 1943 was nothing to do with Mussolini. It is clear that a great many Italians at that time disagreed with that notion. It is also like saying that the defeat of Germany in 1945 was nothing to do with Hitler, or as I have already alluded to, that Hitler had no responsibility for the genocide conducted by the SS because he never visited a concentration camp, never took part in the planning and execution of the said genocide.

This thread is not only way off the original thread, it is in a dead end. Unless we can get back to German heavy ships I would suggest that Jose Rico gets his padlock out and turns the key on this.
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by lwd » Tue Oct 18, 2011 1:03 pm

RF wrote:... This thread is not only way off the original thread, it is in a dead end. Unless we can get back to German heavy ships I would suggest that Jose Rico gets his padlock out and turns the key on this.
Moving the Italian discussion to it's own thread would be another alternative. But as you point out further posting on the current issue has little utility.

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Re: German heavy ships

Post by phil gollin » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:40 am

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RF and LWD,

I'm afraid I cannot answer vagueness. In both of your cases you claim some sort of magical intrusion by Il Duce into the workings of the Italian Navy, but there is no evidence of this. YES, Il Duce had grand illusions and liked to dabble, but where is there any evidence that he stopped the Italian Navy from organising, building, supplying , training and above all THINKING about preparing for war options ?

Did he come down from upon high and tell them not to think about protecting the sea routes to North Africa ? Did he tell them not to build sufficient escorts ? Did he tell them not to get the production of ASDIC sets above the minimal level that was done ?

Somehow there seems a general hiding behind some sort of mythic excuse - "it was all his fault guv' " instead of a realisation of how a High Command should work and what responsibilites it has.

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RF
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by RF » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:05 am

Phil,

This latest post by you is an absurdity.

You accuse me of being vague, that I claim that there was ''some sort of magical intrusion by Il Duce into the workings of the Italian Navy, but there is no evidence of this.''

My posts are anything but vague. Mussolini was Italy's Prime Minister and also Minister of War. Thus he was the government minister directly responsible for Italy's armed forces. As such he had the responsibility of directing the Naval High Command to run the Navy (and similary the Army and the Air Force) on the basis of the foreign policy and other political goals set by the Italian government. That means setting out the objectives of Italian policy, defining what the Navy's involvement will be and what naval resources are likely to be needed. As Prime Minister he will also be involved in determining military budgets. The naval staff therefore prepare and carry out the detailed plans for the execution of government policy, and be answerable for it. The naval staff will need to know what military commitments by Italy are required, who are the potential military enemies, what is to be done about them and how that is to be done, who are Italy's allies and what is Italy's involvement with them. The staff with this information then organise, supply and train the Navy, utilising the resources given to them. Armed with that information they also advise the political leaders and obtain any further necessary direction from them.

Far from specifying all this criteria to Supermarina, Mussolini did not get involved in the detail of running an office or dealing with paperwork. He gave no instruction or directives to the armed forces saying that they need to prepare Italy for total war or even give any indication that he planned to go to war at all, as opposed to the bluster of the Fascisti which Supermarina quite rightly took as empty propaganda.. So the Supermarina was not advised that the sea routes to Italy's colonies were at risk of being cut off, so the specific planning to deal with that threat that was required, or to stockpile the required materials wasn't initiated. Neither was their any indication that escort vessels might be needed as opposed to say battleships. The request by Supermarina for the construction of aircraft carriers was specifically refused by Mussolini, on the grounds that Italy itself was an unsinkable aircraft carrier which would provide the necessary air cover. Supermarina therefore reasonably concluded that the Duce's requirements was for the RM to operate only in the vicinity of Italy itself. That was a major strategic blunder by Mussolini and not Supermarina.
Another direct failing of Mussolini was the absence of any imminent countdown to war, preventing any tactical preparation by Supermarina. So Italy went to war with a substantial amount of merchant shipping caught outside friendly waters and lost, the opportunity to immediately invade Malta was lost.

A naval high command has to be given the basic outline of where the country is going and what resources it has at its disposal. Mussolini failed to define the terms of reference. That makes the job of running the day to day operations of the navy and any form of planning rather difficult.
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Re: German heavy ships

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:52 am

RF,

while I agree with you on the fact that Mussolini was deeply responsible of the poor state and the poor conduct of Italian armed forces, I think that he shares with the naval staff the responsibility for not building an aircraft carrier. Sure, after the war, the Italian admirals said and wrote that the construction of such vessels was planned but vetoed by Mussolini. As far as I know, there were very few supporters, if any, of carriers in the Italian navy, and the proposal to build one was not a serious one.

Best regards,

Francis Marliere

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Re: German heavy ships

Post by lwd » Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:38 pm

But would a carrier have been all that useful for the Italians? Indeed I would think she would have been something of a bomb magnet.

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