Could the Axis Powers have won in the Mediterranean and North Africa?

Oct 2013
34
1
The perception I recieve of the Mediterranean and North African theatres is that they were for the Axis Powers seemingly impossible to win in or bring successfully to a conclution. This is particularly evident from the launching of Operation Barbarossa onwards.

Geographically the Mediterranean sea was always heavily contested between the Axis navies (mainly that of Italy) and Allied navies (largely the British Royal Navy) even when all of Southern Europe was a member of, occupied by or influenced by the Axis. The strength and effectiveness of the opposing navies had a huge impact on the successful conduction of the Axis and Allied armies in North Africa. In this arena it was the Allies who had the numerical, technological and economical advantage whereas the Axis armies advanced just as much on the number of supply ships of essential fuels that managed to evade being sunk as on the number of supply vehicles that were not destroyed by Allied aircraft.

After the launch of Barbarossa the Mediterranean and North African theatres became officially a second priority to the Axis, which was shown by the lack of supplies, attention and seriousness given to them.

However, despite these inferiorities was it realistically possible before American economic power came into the scales for the Axis Powers to win in the theatres of the Mediterranean and North Africa during and including 1940-42?
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,365
However, despite these inferiorities was it realistically possible before American economic power came into the scales for the Axis Powers to win in the theatres of the Mediterranean and North Africa during and including 1940-42?
Yes. They almost did. The power of the Royal Navy was effectively outflanked by german air power. However, the nature of fighting in that theatre was that a victory had to be achieved before the length of supply routes started impinging on military efficiency, which happened to both axis and allies during the course of the campaign in North Africa. The Luftwaffe expedition to Iraq failed to maintain the serviceability of their aeroplanes and the only surviving aircraft, an He111, flew home within a few months. Therefore sea power was a more permanent solution, again requiring the Axis to achieve a lighning victory in their quest for economic advantage.
 

SSDD

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,900
India
Yes, they could have. If Italians were competent like Germans they would have. Basically German Navy wanted to focus on North Africa and Mediterranean. But Hitler refused.

Biggest fault in German-Italian plan in this theater was not capturing Malta. So Malta continued to be a British base from where British Navy continued to intercept Axis convoys.

The way Crete was taken by Fallschirmjäger, Malta too could have been taken I think.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
The Logistical problems were very large for the Axis. Not enough ships, Not enough Port capacity and Not enough trucks. regardless of Malta which was not that important, it could be suppressed by air and only had a limited effect (through important at times) and regardless of Axis priorities.

Diminishing Returns, you can only truck supplies so far until your trucks consume their load in fuel and your supply line has reached the end. From Tripoli to El Alemain was pretty much the limit. The British had a huge supply pipeline by comparison (though as they advanced further from Egypt and the axis retreated things change)

Malta is much much smaller than Crete, there are very few beaches, and very few suitable landing sites. Even with a small Garrison it would be a tough but. Paratroopers dropping near AA guns and ground troops get shot to bits.

So have serve logistical constraints, and if the British are in Egypt they have logistical wealth hard to win. Very hard for the axis to support more troops than they had there.

But even if successful in North Africa it gets the Axis very very little. The Morale win sure. It gets them no oil or vital resources and does not deprive the British of any.
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,956
Stockport Cheshire UK
The problem for the German's was even if they took Malta and North Africa, it wouldn't have forced Britain out of the war, so for the German's it was a dead end, but for the British it was a way of taking on the Axis without endangering her position in any significant way.
In fighting in this campaign the German's got sucked into a fight they did not need or want
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,792
Eastern PA
The problem for the German's was even if they took Malta and North Africa, it wouldn't have forced Britain out of the war, so for the German's it was a dead end, but for the British it was a way of taking on the Axis without endangering her position in any significant way.
In fighting in this campaign the German's got sucked into a fight they did not need or want
Real good points, redcoat.

Yes, the Axis powers could have won in North Africa even though the odds favored the Allies because sometimes in war the underdog prevails.

As redcoat stated, the strategic gain may have been minimal. The greatest possible result may have been a collapse of British morale and willingness to continue the war. It is not inconceivable that the loss of North Africa, combined with the fall of Singapore would break the spirit of the British public and force a change of government willing to negotiate peace.
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,956
Stockport Cheshire UK
As redcoat stated, the strategic gain may have been minimal. The greatest possible result may have been a collapse of British morale and willingness to continue the war. It is not inconceivable that the loss of North Africa, combined with the fall of Singapore would break the spirit of the British public and force a change of government willing to negotiate peace.
By 1942 and the fall of Singapore it's too late, the USA and Soviets are both fighting on Britain's side. So while there might be a change of government, I cannot see the British seeking peace, they knew that eventually the war would turn in their favour.
 

Belloc

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
5,418
USA
The way Crete was taken by Fallschirmjäger, Malta too could have been taken I think.
I'm sure it was feasible, but with the huge loses at Crete, the German High command was very reluctant to use the Fallschirmjägers in such a capacity ever again.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
On what basis are you sure that a paratrooper assault on Malta was feasible.

Crete = 8,335.88 km2
Malta = 246 km2

33 Times smaller. No flat areas to land paratroopers. Everywhere close to Garrison troops and AA guns. An paratrooper assault on Malta is a desperate act. One the Island was reinforced it was not likely to work.
 

Lawnmowerman

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
9,842
On what basis are you sure that a paratrooper assault on Malta was feasible.

Crete = 8,335.88 km2
Malta = 246 km2

33 Times smaller. No flat areas to land paratroopers. Everywhere close to Garrison troops and AA guns. An paratrooper assault on Malta is a desperate act. One the Island was reinforced it was not likely to work.
If the Italians had taken it when they declared war on the UK it probably would've fallen within hours.

Why they didn't take it straight away is beyond me.