The Western Allies land in the Balkans instead of Italy in 1943

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,197
SoCal
#1
What if the Western Allies would have launched an amphibious invasion of the Balkans in 1943 instead of invading Italy? How would this invasion have gone and what effects would this have had on World War II and its aftermath? Also, as a side question, might the Western Allies have been in more of a position to prevent the Hungarian Holocaust in this scenario due to the relative proximity of Hungary to the Balkans?
 
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
#2
In a word - debacle.

Italy stays in the war.
Axis air power (from Italy) savages Allied forces & supply.
The Balkans lack a major protected useful supply port, and would be lacking a good useable road/rail network.

The Allies were helped immensely by the rapid intact capture of Taranto, and the capture of Naples in relatively good condition, helped by Italian partisans.
Four days of Naples - Wikipedia
 
Oct 2015
874
Virginia
#3
Where in the Balkans?

Mainland Greece and Albania were beyond the range of allied fighters in 1943.
There was a plan to take Rhodes pursuant to getting Turkey to come in on the Allied side. Would that have worked?
What would have followed? Dodecanese (again!), Crete? Greece? all of them?
Greece had terrible road and rail communications over the mountains into Serbia and the Danube valley, worse terrain than Italy; and no sizable port. Even if the allies could fight their way thru the mountains to the Danube, they could not have supplied any large force there without ports and a new transportation infrastructure.

Even the scheme to invade Istria and Trieste (at the head of the Adriatic) instead of Southern France, and move on Vienna thru the "Ljubljana Gap" seems to me to have been a pipe dream (even with allied forces in Italy) due to geography, terrain and communications.

All the strategic and logistical problems are academic of course, because the US had no intention of getting involved in the political quagmire of Greece and Yugoslavia, or diverting forces from Western Europe. (The British eventually sent 3 divisions from Italy and the Middle East to intervene in the Greek civil war).
 
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Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,894
Iowa USA
#4
All the strategic and logistical problems are academic of course, because the US had no intention of getting involved in the political quagmire of Greece and Yugoslavia, or diverting forces from Western Europe. (The British eventually sent 3 divisions from Italy and the Middle East to intervene in the Greek civil war).
While it is true that the UK had much more interest than USA, in particular for the future of Greece, I believe that staff work was done by the Americans in response to Churchill's "wild hare" mentions of a landing on the Yugoslav coast. Istria was a more plausible landing location after the fall of Cassino and Rome, but the OP is asking about 1943.

In 1943 it might be necessary to begin with Crete. Air cover wouldn't be practical from Eastern Libya, presuming strict Turkish neutrality.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,197
SoCal
#5
Where in the Balkans?

Mainland Greece and Albania were beyond the range of allied fighters in 1943.
For logistical reasons?

There was a plan to take Rhodes pursuant to getting Turkey to come in on the Allied side. Would that have worked?
Would there have been a subsequent Allied invasion of Greece?

What would have followed? Dodecanese (again!), Crete? Greece? all of them?
Greece had terrible road and rail communications over the mountains into Serbia and the Danube valley, worse terrain than Italy; and no sizable port. Even if the allies could fight their way thru the mountains to the Danube, they could not have supplied any large force there without ports and a new transportation infrastructure.
Athens isn't a sizable port?

Also, did southern Italy have much better roads?

Even the scheme to invade Istria and Trieste (at the head of the Adriatic) instead of Southern France, and move on Vienna thru the "Ljubljana Gap" seems to me to have been a pipe dream (even with allied forces in Italy) due to geography, terrain and communications.
Gotcha.

All the strategic and logistical problems are academic of course, because the US had no intention of getting involved in the political quagmire of Greece and Yugoslavia, or diverting forces from Western Europe. (The British eventually sent 3 divisions from Italy and the Middle East to intervene in the Greek civil war).
Interesting.

In a word - debacle.

Italy stays in the war.
Axis air power (from Italy) savages Allied forces & supply.
The Balkans lack a major protected useful supply port, and would be lacking a good useable road/rail network.

The Allies were helped immensely by the rapid intact capture of Taranto, and the capture of Naples in relatively good condition, helped by Italian partisans.
Four days of Naples - Wikipedia
Did cities such as Athens and Tirane not have large ports?
 
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
#6
For logistical reasons?

Did cities such as Athens and Tirane not have large ports?
Athens yes.
Tirana - not sure of the capacity.

The issue is more than just port size, it's the rail network beyond the port, the air defence required for the port, and the probability of seizing the port intact.
Since the Allies knew that Italy would withdraw from the war the last two points became much more viable for the Allies.

AFAIK, the Greek rail lines run to Salonika, then North through the mountains - a nightmare tactical and logistics problem for the Allies
 
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Oct 2015
874
Virginia
#7
I meant mainland Greece and Albania were beyond the range of allied fighter AIRCRAFT (sorry I was ambiguous). The Spitfire's combat radius was calculated to be about 200 miles. The allied air bases nearest the Greek mainland (extreme southern Peloponese) were in Cyrenaica, over 280 miles away. The allies never (well, almost never) advanced beyond the range of air cover. Even Salerno was at the limit of fighter range from Sicily, so aircraft carriers supplemented the fighter defenses at dawn and dusk.

Italy did have (somewhat) better road and rail communications than Greece, and they could be supplemented by sea on both coasts, all the way to the Po.

I doubt if the Piraeus AND Salonika (eventually) had the port capacity and communications of Naples, and Southern Italy also had Taranto, Bari and Reggio.

Another consideration was airfield sites. Part of the argument for invading Italy was the desire of the strategic air forces for air bases around Foggia, From there targets in south Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Rumania, beyond the range of bombers based in the UK, could be effectively attacked by B-24s and B-17s. I don't think there were any comparable sites in the Balkans.
 
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macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
4,043
Slovenia, EU
#8
And Yugoslav communist partisans also promised to attack allies if allies would land in Yugoslavia. They knew that their revolution would be impossible with allied forces in Yugoslavia.
 
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Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,894
Iowa USA
#9
And Yugoslav communist partisans also promised to attack allies if allies would land in Yugoslavia. They knew that their revolution would be impossible with allied forces in Yugoslavia.
For some in the UK, this was the very reason for at least a small invasion of Yugoslavia. Despite the very humble origins of the royal family some members were now married into the Coburg-Windsor "franchises" of German princes.