Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

^^^ We succeed inspite of our best efforts to derail ourselves
I've made several updates on this rather minor operation against Scarpanto/ Karpathos, but they illustrate a couple of points:
1. What looks to dear Girolamo like a formidable amphibious capability looks like chaos from the Allied side. The full quote from which the title of part 5 is taken goes: 'man cannot tell, but Allah knows/ how much the other side is hurt.'
2. One tentative difference I have with the original FFO is how soon the Allies could commence an amphibious offensive in the Mediterranean. I think in original OTL they already start to take islands in 1940. To me, the choreography required for successful amphibious operations has always seemed extraordinary, and the skills required take time to develop, so I don't think the offensive can really get under way until 1941, as here.
 

Driftless

Donor
I've made several updates on this rather minor operation against Scarpanto/ Karpathos, but they illustrate a couple of points:
1. What looks to dear Girolamo like a formidable amphibious capability looks like chaos from the Allied side. The full quote from which the title of part 5 is taken goes: 'man cannot tell, but Allah knows/ how much the other side is hurt.'
2. One tentative difference I have with the original FFO is how soon the Allies could commence an amphibious offensive in the Mediterranean. I think in original OTL they already start to take islands in 1940. To me, the choreography required for successful amphibious operations has always seemed extraordinary, and the skills required take time to develop, so I don't think the offensive can really get under way until 1941, as here.
Also, command (at several levels) seems to be recognizing weaknesses in planning, doctrine, and equipment and acting to remediate those problems - at least to the extent they can at this point
 
Part 5.5
Extract from Marianne and John, ch.10


...the day after the capture of Scarpanto, the Council met again to settle the question of the next steps. With all eyes on the vast campaign going on in Russia, the question was how to provide effective aid. Limited attacks in Greece had achieved nothing, the mountains proved as easy to defend by the Axis as by the Allies. ‘We have just a bigger version of the Salonika side-show of the last war,’ wrote M. Mandel, ‘although we have gained a defensive victory, the Balkan terrain inhibits offensive action.’ During the autumn the Greek front entered a long lull.
Elsewhere, British and Soviet forces had entered Iran a few weeks earlier and rapidly secured the country; but its use as a supply route would be limited until its roads and railways were improved. ‘Rhodes, if possible the whole Dodecanese, must fall this year,’ said Mr. Churchill, ‘presenting the prospect of a decisive shift in the attitude of Turkey.’ If the sea-route via Istanbul became available, supplying Russia would be much easier. ‘The Turks must see that if Russia falls they will be next,’ he went on.
The French members of the Council showed a little less enthusiasm. The alliance with the USSR had caused them political difficulties in Algeria. More directly, Rhodes seemed a much harder target than Scarpanto or tiny Kasos. ‘There is a full division there, with artillery,’ noted de Gaulle, ‘and we lack the landing craft to lift more than a few battalions at once.’ The British suspected another motive. ‘The French have played the smaller part in the eastern Med,’ noted General Wavell. ‘The fought magnificently in Greece. At the moment, though, they have no units free for Rhodes. They want an operation where they have the leading role, one cannot blame them. We must give priority to ROBERT.’ Wavell was in a particularly philosophical mood; after a month’s home leave, he was about to depart for the Far East, to take command of the much-strengthened British forces there. General Alexander now replaced him as C-in-C Middle East. General O’Connor was also about to leave the scene. In Whitehall a view had formed that he needed rest. He returned to Britain in September for a spell of leave and then to take command of an armoured corps.
...the French carried the day. ‘I can deny nothing to Mandel,’ said Churchill on 8th September, ‘he has the soul and glory of France. ROBERT is well worth it.’ The specialised ships and landing craft were transferred to Gabes and Sfax. Tragedy struck, however, during the transfer operations, when the Barham, acting as distant cover for the convoy, was torpedoed and sunk. ‘A painful loss,’ noted Admiral Godfroy, ‘especially when we must send capital ships east. Still we retain a margin of advantage, with the Nelson joining us soon.’
 
Operation Robert sounds like a landing at Pantelleria... Certainly a more useful target than Rhodes. Rhodes can fall anytime, as it is completely cut off from supply. The Italians would need to send submarines to supply the garrison. Every submarines used as transport is one submarine not used in patrols against Allied shipping. Soon in Rhodes they will run out of aircraft, spares and POL.
 
Operation Robert sounds like a landing at Pantelleria...
I'd say 'stop reading my notes', but the target for ROBERT is the logical choice under these circumstances.
Rhodes can fall anytime, as it is completely cut off from supply. The Italians would need to send submarines to supply the garrison. Every submarines used as transport is one submarine not used in patrols against Allied shipping. Soon in Rhodes they will run out of aircraft, spares and POL.
The supply situation in Rhodes would certainly be bad, but I think they might still be trying to use surface transport. After all the Axis have Salonika and can run down through the Dodecanese. Evidently though submarines and aircraft from Crete will interdict effectively.
 
Part 5.6
Extract from ch.1, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green

The Allies made no secret of their reinforcement of the East. In 1941 the War Council devoted as much time to this subject as to any other. Once the Germans had failed at Olympus and invaded Russia, the pace quickened. The Japanese began to see their window of opportunity closing.
In order to understand Japanese actions we must recall that a genuine peace policy had become impossible. Those politicians who preferred it lived in terror of their lives. Politics, in the true sense of the word, had in fact ceased in Japan some years earlier; what Japan now had instead was inter-service rivalry. Almost unconsciously, peace had vanished from the set of options before Japanese policy-makers, the question had become who to fight (and when), not whether to fight.
The Army was undecided whether to fight Russia or the Western powers, while the Navy preferred the latter, as a war with Russia would give them little to do. The Japanese armed forces had obtained an excessive share of Japan’s GDP for many years, and now felt they had to justify this by results. Adding a further twist, even those senior officers who prudently feared war could not act on this belief. They too feared assassination...
The Japanese had occupied the southernmost portion of China, Kwangsi province, adjacent to the Indochina border, in 1939. During 1940 and into 1941, Kwangsi became their main base for operations against Indochina. IJA incursions into French territory became frequent. In April 1941 the whole of Japanese 5th Division crossed the frontier in the region of Lang Son, looting and burning several villages in an apparent attempt at discrediting French authority. The French forces in the area were too weak to permit anything but diplomatic protests, which significantly were now joined by Washington. But the IJA hotheads ignored this portent, and further raids occurred during the summer.
The pace of events towards war became irreversible after the Long Chau Incident. The Japanese had occupied this island, along with several others, in 1940 during their initial period of pressure following the fall of France. A French outpost on the island had temporarily been abandoned during July 1940, and the local Japanese forces seized the opportunity. They had withdrawn from the other islands during the winter, but despite promising to do so, never pulled out of Long Chau. During the spring of 1941 instead they reinforced the place with more troops and artillery. Japanese aircraft regularly patrolled over the island, and occasionally landed.
The French authorities had by now grown weary of protests. In the late summer, the first reinforcements arrived, including thirty D.520 fighter aircraft, and these were based near Hanoi. French aircraft flew over Long Chau, and before long there were clashes. A French aircraft was shot down on July 21st. In retaliation French ships moved up from Cam Ranh and bombarded the island. The Japanese escalated by attacking and sinking a French transport, with over 500 people aboard, on the 28th, and two more French ships on the 30th. At the same time the IJA had moved troops towards the frontier between China and Indo-China, and border incursions followed. All these Japanese actions, it seems, were on the initiative of bellicose local commanders; Tokyo was unable or unwilling to order de-escalation.
The French and British responded by ordering more reinforcements to the East, despite their commitments in Europe. Both sent a pair of capital ships to the region and began planning to send larger reinforcements. ‘We have a responsibility in the East, and we must also give encouragement to Chungking,’ wrote de Gaulle. ‘The best bet to restrain Tokyo is to build up China.’ The British, for their part, sought American assistance in upgrading the Burma Road. ‘We want to increase the capacity to a thousand tons a day, if possible,’ wrote General Wavell. ‘That should give Tokyo something to think about.’
US opinion sided strongly with the French. ‘History tells us that the Chinese used to call the Japanese pirates, and what they are doing in the Gulf of Tonkin is nothing less than piracy,’ thundered one Los Angeles newspaper. ‘The Gulf of Tonkin incident makes it imperative that Washington takes a stand,’ wrote the Washington Post.
The US government now acted, freezing Japanese assets in the USA. This act has received endless speculation as to how to interpret the President’s intentions. It appears to me that President Roosevelt wanted to force Japan to choose between either ending or expanding its war, knowing that either option would ultimately suit America, and the Tonkin incidents gave him the perfect opportunity. In fact the President misjudged Tokyo if he believed there was any chance they would choose to end their unjust war in China. But his misjudgement was as nothing to that of the decision-takers in Tokyo. The embargo, more than any other action, persuaded the Japanese Government to commit to the so-called Southern Operation. The Emperor gave his assent, with a show of reluctance…
 
Politics, in the true sense of the word, had in fact ceased in Japan some years earlier; what Japan now had instead was inter-service rivalry. Almost unconsciously, peace had vanished from the set of options before Japanese policy-makers, the question had become who to fight (and when), not whether to fight.
This is, from everything I understand, a wondefully succient description of the absolute Madhouse that was Fully Armed and Operational Imperial Japan.
 
Part 6.1
Part 6. Dominion over sea and land

Extract from War in the Middle Sea, ch.11

Operation ROBERT got under way in poor weather on 25th September. Pantelleria had suffered weeks of bombardment. In the last fortnight three groups of DB-7 bombers had made sure no day went by without an air raid, supplementing this with occasional nuisance raids at night. A group of Vultee dive-bombers made precision attacks on Italian coastal batteries. The AAA now had three groups of Curtiss 81 fighters (the type known as P-40s in American service) operating from Tunisia, and these provided both escorts and supplementary low-level attacks. These raids therefore had a lower loss rate than had been feared and anticipated. Only Italian aircraft opposed them as almost all German aircraft had gone to Russia, with a handful to Greece. The French pilots found that although the new Macchi C.202 was a dangerous opponent as a dogfighter, its light armament was not really enough against their tough American planes, so far more of their machines were damaged than destroyed. The Italians also lacked effective early-warning and communications systems, so many raids went in without interception. ‘We can confidently say we have air superiority over the arena of action,’ noted General Olry. British fighters from Malta, and bombers from Tripoli, also helped to suppress the Regia Aeronautica with attacks on airfields in Sicily.
The Italian navy made one sortie, but turned back on orders from Rome when British aircraft detected the ships. ‘We could not hope for success without adequate air cover,’ commented Admiral Iachino, ‘as it was we came under air attack while withdrawing.’ The Allied naval contribution consisted of regular night bombardments by French warships, cruisers and destroyers, refuelling during the day in Tunisian ports on the east coast. The RN also participated, sending the Valiant and three cruisers to assist. Despite the threat from submarines, on three occasions the French sent the Provence to join the bombardment, her new gunnery radar enabling some very accurate shooting. One Italian officer wrote, ‘we had no means of returning such heavy, accurate fire. It is futile to attempt resistance against such fire superiority.’ This ceased on 1st October, however, when she hit a mine on returning from one such mission, leaving her out of action for months...
The bad weather slowed the landing operations, but also enabled a high degree of surprise, as the Italian garrison had been hoping for a respite from bombardment. Some were caught still asleep, though there was also stiff resistance elsewhere, notably in the hills to the south of the island. ‘Turning them out of their high ground was no easy task,’ commented General Bethouart, echoing comments made about the fighting in East Africa. ‘They turned Monte Grande into a little Keren.’
The island’s surrender took two days longer than planned, largely because armour was not available. A company of American M3 tanks had been taken along, but in the poor weather it proved impossible to launch and bring in to shore the LCMs on which they were borne. An attempt to do so on the first day ended with the LCM swamped and lost along with its cargo. Not until the wind fell could the vehicles be landed…
Despite all the difficulties, the French had won their first amphibious assault, learning many of the same lessons as the British at Scarpanto. The landing craft could return to the eastern Mediterranean. Here a vast mass of shipping had gathered, as the British had assembled forces for the next phase, for which they entertained high hopes...
 
One the one hand... It can't not be Sicily, right? But on the other hand, given how the British liked to plan their Offensives (Eg: Via Deception,) does that mean it has to be not Sicily?
 
Great update as always! Will we have any news of occupied France? The germans would certainly retaliate against the french population, and without an armistice perhaps they cut out the middleman and occupy France entirely and without a puppet authority?
 
I suspect the Dodecanese (particularly Rhodes) will be targeted before Sicily, as that's where the British were looking before the decision was made to prioritise ROBERT to keep the French happy. That operation does put Sicily on notice, mind. I wonder how Italian morale (both in the front line, and in high places) is doing at this time?
 
One the one hand... It can't not be Sicily, right? But on the other hand, given how the British liked to plan their Offensives (Eg: Via Deception,) does that mean it has to be not Sicily?
It isn't Sicily. Churchill entertains hopes of Turkey (as OTL) and therefore wants the Dodecanese (alluded to in part 5.5). Sicily looks too big to the Allies at this point - they don't yet have the amphibious capability for a multi-division assault. Also: the air is a tricky question - the Luftwaffe has mostly gone from Sicily at this point and the Allies could probably gain air superiority over Sicily against the Regia Aeronautica alone - but the risk is that Fliegerkorps X or similar might come back. The Allies want (as OTL) to make sure of their offensives - they want to create a sense of momentum (both for domestic politics and for diplomacy) so don't want to risk any major reverses.
What about Corsica? Retaking a piece of European France would have a very strong propaganda and morale role it didn’t have IOTL.
Yes, and this will affect Allied calculations going forward. But in 1941 it is too soon, and Sardinia is a pre-requisite for an invasion of Corsica.
Great update as always! Will we have any news of occupied France? The germans would certainly retaliate against the french population, and without an armistice perhaps they cut out the middleman and occupy France entirely and without a puppet authority?
I haven't written any scenes set in occupied France; it would be a grim prospect, since the Nazis won't even have to pretend to respect Vichy etc. Parts 1.1 and 2.3 mention a puppet regime in Paris, and part 4.5 mentions a typically nasty plot on their part. But this regime has even less respect and authority than OTL Vichy. It has been generally accepted (most importantly by the USA) that the Algiers Government is the legitimate government of France. Incidentally, this means William Leahy is not US Ambassador to Vichy in the ATL; what this might mean for his career and consequently for Washington's decision-making I haven't explored, though it might be significant. I guess Roosevelt would send him to Algiers and this might give the French a strong advocate, with the President's ear, once he returns to Washington.
I suspect the Dodecanese (particularly Rhodes) will be targeted before Sicily, as that's where the British were looking before the decision was made to prioritise ROBERT to keep the French happy. That operation does put Sicily on notice, mind. I wonder how Italian morale (both in the front line, and in high places) is doing at this time?
Rhodes is the logical next target. Regarding Italian morale, we can say that it has not yet completely collapsed. The events that would trigger a move by the King and Army against Mussolini have not yet occurred. But the much earlier loss of Africa and the need to supply an ongoing and thankless Greek campaign will try the patience of the Italian elites.
 
In the Western Med, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica are all targets. Probably in that order, but they might be able to leave the first until later. It all depends on resources available, especially landing craft, and the opposition they will face. Either way, I don't expect any of them to be attacked before the end of the year. At which point, eyes may have been dragged East, thanks to Japan.

In the east, Rhodes is too big to leave. I wonder how many Dodecanese and Aegean islands are the same, and how many can be left to wither on the vine. That implies great hardship for the native islanders, of course, but I expect some hard-headed decisions on that one. Rhodes, I can see an attack before the turn of the year. That will be the only big one, but there might be a few smaller ones on other islands if they're deemed necessary.

The French, British (and Empire) and possibly even Greek forces will start to gain experience with amphibious landing. ROBERT and Scarpanto have started this process already, and further ops will allow them to refine the process. It will also allow some prioritisation of landing craft for the larger ops to come.

But, as said, come December, Japan throws a continent-sized spanner in the works. So we shall see.
 
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