Skip to comments.Did Communist Influence Lead to D-Day Invasion over Italy Strategy?
Posted on 08/08/2013 6:40:45 AM PDT by cutty
The two most ardent boosters of the Normandy invasion were Stalin and Harry Hopkins
Churchill famously urged that the advance on Germany continue from already-won bases in Italy and elsewhere in south-central Europe.
Stalins demand for the big U.S.-British push in northern France, however, prevailed. According to the tally of one peeved letter to the editor in the New York Times, this would put the Allies on track to open their ninth front.
Of course, in order to gather sufficient forces for the June 1944 D-Day invasion, men and equipment, particularly landing craft, had to be withdrawn from the European continent in Italy to reinvade the European continent in France.
In his memoir, Calculated Risk, Gen. Mark Clark, commander of U.S. forces in Italy, explains how gutting his forces in Italy in the months before D-Day stalled Allied progress against German forces. (Italy had already surrendered.) Meanwhile, the disappearance of Allied men and materiel from the battlefield completely mystified the Germans.
For weeks, Clark writes, Allied counterintelligence was catching enemy agents who had orders to find out 'where in hell' were various Allied divisions that were being sent to France. They couldnt believe the Allies werent dealing them the death blow they had expected.
Italy... was the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the Valley of the Po. In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans and the Reich itself."
"Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany, he explained. The commander went on recommend operations in the Aegean: "From here the Balkans could be kept aflame, Ploesti would be threatened and the Dardanelles might be opened.
That commanders name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(Excerpt) Read more at breitbart.com ...
The gist of this article seems to be that the Allies should have chosen to attack the Nazis in the place that the enemy was most expecting and had prepared for.
Breitbart is a good site for current events, but it isn't quite up to snuff on its military history.
The entire effort in the Med, that whole soft underbelly thing, was done to benefit the British in maintaining it’s empire in the post war era.
The American idea was to end the war rapidly as possible. The British insisted on sideshows designed to help them maintain their position in the postwar era.
Thank god we didn’t do it the British way.
I think France would have gone communist if we hadn’t put De Gaulle in power there. And I’m not sure we could have done it without the D-Day invasion.
While capturing Italy first would have given the Allies an advantage in the air, there is no way they could have moved the necessary number of tanks across the Alps to complete the ground war.
Had an invasion of Europe been launched before the American forces learned modern warfare, we would have been slaughtered.
The Alps ?
What Alps ?
I tend to agree with that. In the first world war the Allies couldn't even get the infantry across the Alps.
It turned out great...except for that first wave of men at Omaha beach that received minimal firepower compared to the other invasion points. Slaughtered. Treachery. But they still got it done.
“Gen. Mark Clark, commander of U.S. forces in Italy, explains how gutting his forces in Italy in the months before D-Day stalled Allied progress against German forces.”
Myopia. Its actually the other way around. Italy sucked up supplies, landing craft, aircraft, soldiers, etc. Ike thought without the Mediterranean theater looking so large, the landings in France and a straight drive into Germany could have happened as much as a year earlier.
The British soldiers were first class. But their leaders prolonged the war. Market Garden is another example. To placate Monty, that failed Holland attempt at an end run stripped Patton’s army and stopped them for months.
The war in Europe could have ended even as much as a year earlier were it not for the British political leadership.
Yeah that and also some info has recently come out that the Germans wanted nothing more then to bleed us white in the mountains of Italy.
However I do agree that Stalin was a big advocate for the Normandy invasion. And FDR loved Uncle Joe. Doesn’t necessarily make it wrong military strategy however.
Then there was the British/Churchillian idea of a Balkan invasion (separate from operations in Italy) that never really got off the ground.
Speculative history is a rathole - I think all we can say for sure is that Stalin did want a European front (and he wanted it sooner than it eventually occurred) and in the end, Overlord did what it was hoped for it, albeit at quite substantial cost and implications for post WWII Europe.
Terrain-wise, Italy was very easy to defend. It is narrow and mountainous. Even more so as you go North—when you come to the Alps. Many people don’t realize, but we also invaded France from the South later in the summer of ‘44. That was a much easier slog.
In retrospect, if there had been no D-Day, Stalin may have shot himself in the foot. Without D-Day, he might have conquered all of Germany.
As George Marshall would state in 1957 to his official biographer Forrest Pogue: Hopkinss job with the president was to represent the Russian interests. My job was to represent the American interests.
Was Hopkins representing Russian interests at a time of American need?
Who was Harry Hopkins?
Churchill was a great leader and often very insightful. But he had his mistakes, sometimes big one. Call Italy “The soft underbelly of Europe” was maybe one of the stupidest things he ever said. He was no doubt referring to the Italians. He may not have counted on the Germans invading Italy to keep it from falling (though this was no hard to foresee).
It’s true that the US did gain valuable experience in North Africa. But the meatgrinders in Italy and Sicily were not needed beyond the collapse of Rome.
Not to mention, at that earlier time, the Germans had western Europe nearly stripped of troops while fighting for survival in impossible battles in Russia.
The British leaders were an impediment and prolonged the war.
“Churchill famously urged that the advance on Germany continue from already-won bases in Italy”
I wish people would publish quotes to back up such complete nonsense. But of course if there were any quotes to back this up, it wouldn’t be the complete nonsense that it is.
Churchill in fact advocated a ‘dilly dally’ strategy. As long as Germans and Russians were killing each other, he was perfectly happy to sit on the sidelines.
He figured we’d have to fight the Russians after the war anyway. The more that were dead, the better.
“Stalin may have shot himself in the foot. Without D-Day, he might have conquered all of Germany”
People do forget THAT. If we were bogged down in Italy, that could have easily occurred. And he could have had an invitation from French communists to liberate them.
The world could have been very different.
They could have found a stranger there.
Hopkins was basically FDR’s Valerie Jarret and I think most would consider him a communist.
Churchill actually advocated a strong allied thrust through south central Europe. He actually ordered a British offensive that cost the lives of many brave soldiers. In his defense he was never fooled by Hitler and understood Stalin. The post war history of Eastern Europe would have been far different if a significant Anglo-American force had been present with the Russians. However those who pointed out that the logistics of fighting in South Central Europe would have been a nightmare and therefore causalities would have been similar to what the Russians suffered were probably correct. IMHO Churchill was always haunted by his role in the disaster at Gallipoli in 1915 and in an odd way was trying to vindicate his strategy that victory over Germany was achieved through the “soft underbelly of Europe”.
I always thought that the presence of the Alps led to this preference in strategy.
Much of what I've read about Monty is he did not trust the intel coming down from ULTRA/Bletchley Park. In the North Africa campaign Monty would be told that Rommel would be at a specific location and he would not act on it fearing the intel was bad. This happened many times I've read and it would totally frustrate Churchill.
I've read that if Monty had acted and attacked Rommel would have been destroyed and the whole European theater would have been won at least a year earlier.
Without American Lend/Lease supplies, German would be spoken from Caen to the Urals.
From what I've read, it was more like De Gaulle seized the opportunity himself. Luckily we had enough folks with brains that considered him a better alternative than the communists and bucked our own state department, allowing him to do it.
Marshall and Hopkins wanted to invade France in 1943 which would have been an absolute disaster. Only Churchill's insistence prevented this major error. The invasion of Normandy was planned by the British with oversight from Eisenhower. The invasion was the greatest amphibious success in the history of warfare. But soon after the invasion the allies were being defeated on the ground despite superior men and material and complete air superiority.
Pattton was finally returned to active command. He quickly outflanked and soundly defeated the Germans. The German Army was low on supplies and close to starvation in late 1944. Its ranks filled with boys and middle aged men. The Allies should have won the war in late 1944 but the Allies failed to secure the Port of Antwerp until December 1944. They wasted resources and time on the failed Operation Market Garden.
The Allies had an enormous advantage by 1944. The Germans were fighting on two fronts and their resources were being rapidly depleted. Allies had total air superiority by late 1944. German cities were being bombed day and night.
The invasion of France and the maintenence of the front in Italy helped to end the war. Leaving more troops in Italy would have made little difference.
Do you understand warfare that poorly?
Because that whole Dardanelles thing worked out so great in WWI???
Sometimes, just because someone we don’t like wants it ... doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.
Yep. The mountains of Italy lent themselves far better to defense than the plains of Western Europe. Ask Patton about that one.
Thank you #16 ‘Ditto’ Check out the Brenner Pass. Armies have been stopped there for centuries.
Hannibal didn’t have to worry about a column of elephants being trapped by German bombers taking out a mountain pass.
Ya he did, but he didn't have any opposition when crossing the Alps. I doubt the Nazis would have extended the same courtesy. It was bad enough fighting in the Italian mountains on the way up the boot. Crossing the Alps against a skilled and determined enemy... that would be ugly.
One of the more interesting "What If" scenarios I've heard is "What if we deposed Hitler, and allied with the Germans vs Russia?"
I think that the Russians would have won, simply because they'd throw men at an objective until it was won, and they had the political will to do it. But German engineering and technology, combined with Allied industrial might, might have made it interesting. Approximately a shooting version of the Cold War, 20 years early.
Of interest to our group.
And really West is backwards in calling D-Day the Stalin strategy. The strongest argument for the invasion of Sicly and Italy was the fact that at the time Stalin alone was facing German ground forces. The Allies had cleared North Africa and the invasion of France was, according to the plans at the time, a good 18 months away. Neither Churchill or Roosevelt felt that we could let Stalin shoulder the entire burden for that long. So it was Italy that was the sop to Stalin and not France.
Even after D-Day, the Nazis were rounding up whole French villages of suspected civilian Maquis and French Communists and killing them.
You’re exactly right.
Metz and gasoline shortages were the only things that help Patton up.
OK, but Rome wasn’t liberated until June 5, 1944.
You're probably right. Many in the West are unaware of just how large the Soviet army of 1945 was.
The Soviet generals of 1945 were also first-rate, much better than their leaders were in 1941.
In a hypothetical spring 1945 match up between the Western allies and the Soviets, the West would have had the advantage in strategic bombers. Every other advantage would have belonged to the Soviets.
Correctomundo. That soft underbelly had this teeny weeny thing called the Alps in the way of our objective: Germany. It's hard enough to push an army through those mountain passes when they are not defended. Put a few troops and 88's in the way and it takes a couple of years.
Maybe the allies were experiencing a shortage of elephants.
However, if there had been a war, the politicians would probably have surrendered. Truman admired Stalin and said he reminded him of Democrat Party boss Tom Pendergast, Truman’s mentor and father figure. The State Department and the rest of the government in 1945 an 1946 was full of Communists who were far more loyal to the Communist party and the Soviet Union than to the United States.
From Anzio until V-E Day, the Itlay campaign was a hard slog; tough battles against experienced German troops, defending rugged terrain. Without opening a second front in Normandy (and later, in southern France), Hitler could have easily focused his troops and resources in Italy, slowing our advance even further and inflicting many more casualties.
It’s also worth noting that General Clark was among our least capable commanders. His forces achieved near-total surprise at Anzio, but failed to exploit their opening; a jeep patrol made it to the outskirts of Rome a few days after the landing, but the local commander, General John Lucas, preferred to dig in. That gave the German commander time to rush thousands of troops to Anzio and pin us inside the the beachhead for months.
After the breakout at Anzio, Clark pushed on to Rome instead of turning to disrupt the German’s interior lines. This allowed large numbers of German troops to escape and redeploy to the next major defensive line, where they bloodied Allied troops again.
There is no compelling evidence that Clark would have made better use of additional resources. Perhaps the writer is inferring that if Italy were the “only show” Clark would have been replaced by men like Patton or Bradley. There may be some truth in that, but regardless of who was in command, they would have faced the difficult challenges of fighting their way up the Italian boot.
And here’s another inconvenient fact: to reach Germany from Italy, you have to advance across the Alps and through Austria. Not exactly tank country. The Italians and Austrians fought in those mountains for years during World War I, and we might have encountered a similar, bloody stalemate. Meanwhile, Stalin’s tank divisions would have advanced well past Berlin and wound up with much of Western Europe.
If I’m not mistake, the author of this article had a similar offering earlier in the week, criticizing FDR for not re-inforcing the Philippines after our entry into World War II. With most of our Pacific Fleet on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, we lacked the naval power to send reinforcements across the Pacific to the Philippines and defend the sea lanes from superior Japanese forces.
Incidentally, the situation was made worse by General MacArthur’s calculation that Tokyo wouldn’t attack until April 1942 at the earliest; as a result, defensive preparations were way behind and his staff was on a “peacetime” schedule up until the first bombs fell.
FDR was no saint; there is compelling evidence that he deliberately left our fleet exposed at Pearl Harbor, trying to bait the Japanese and give us an entry into the war. He denied critical intelligence to his commanders in Hawaii and thousands of pages of intel documents from that period remain sealed. FDR even fired a PACFLT commander (Admiral J.O. Richardson), who demanded the fleet return to its home base in San Diego, realizing it was unprepared for war and dangerously positioned at Pearl.
But suggesting that Italy should have been the “only” ground campaign in Europe is ridiculous, as are the claims about the Philippines. As conservatives, we often criticize liberals for re-writing history to satisfy a particular agenda. These attempts are no better and they reflect a complete misunderstanding of the military situation at the time.
There was more to it than appeasing the British.
It was a huge appeasement to Stalin, who was demanding a second front.
Fighting in N.Africa, Sicily, and Italy gave the U.S. experience that it badly needed, before putting whole armies ashore in northern France.
Opening up airbases in the south forced a dilution of German air defenses, which was good for the 8th AF.
The amphibious capability built up in the Med forced the Germans to keep significant garrisons in Greece and Yugoslavia, where they were tied down to the end of the war.
The American people also wanted in the fight. Buying war bonds and living without would have been harder for most to pallet, had we simply waited two years to do anything. And remember, we had decided on “Europe First”, so it would have been very unpalletable to do nothing in Europe and very little against Japan for two years. Although our stockpiles in England would have built up faster without the other campaigns, we would not have had air supremacy by the summer of 1943, nor the levels of equipment needed. Most of what we used in ‘44 was built in ‘43 and ‘44.
Albert Speer (who probably as much as anyone had an inside straight to the Nazi situation) in May 1944 concluded that a real danger was the possibility of the Allies destroying all the Rhine bridges in one day.
In his memoirs he writes: “In May 29, 1944, some ten days later, I wrote to Jodl in some agitation:
‘I am tormented by the thought that someday all the bridges over the Rhine will be destroyed. According to my observations of the density of the bombings recently, it should be possible for the enemy to do this. What would the situation be if the enemy, after cutting off all traffic to the armies in the occupied western territories, did not carry out his landings at the Atlantic Wall, but on the North Sea coast in Germany? such a landing would probably be practicable, since he already possess absolute air superiority which is surely the prime prerequisite for a successful landing on the north German coastal area. At any rate his casualties would certainly be less by such an approach than by a direct assault on the Atlantic Wall.’
In Germany itself we had scarcely any troop units at our disposal. If the airports at Hamburg and Bremen could be taken by parachute units and the ports of these cities be seized by small forces, invasion armies debarking from ships would, I feared, meet no resistance and would be occupying Berlin and all of Germany within a few days. Meanwhile, the three armies in the West would be cut off by the Rhine and the army groups in the East tied down in heavy defensive battles, in any case they were too far away to be able to intervene in time.”
MacArthur might have thought of doing something like that, but he was elsewhere.
It was partly naivety but it was mostly treason. Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government and for many their loyalties were not to the United States but to the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.
As for feeling guilty about the Russians bearing the most brutal brunt of WWII the Russian people suffered far more when the NYT was regularly writing stories about how happy the people were under the starvation and slaughter of the Communists.
The people who bore the most brutal brunt of the war were not the Russian people but the Polish people. Read about the battle of Warsaw and how the Soviet Army sat back and watched the Polish resistance fight the Germans. Poland suffered by far the most casualties proportionate to their population.
Even if the Soviet Union had signed another agreement with Germany late in the war, the allies still would have easily defeated Germany. The German cities were being bombed day and night, German industry was destroyed and the German Army was short on supplies and close to starvation.
Yeah no kidding. If they enemy was EXPECTING those divisions to attack, then they were READY for them to attack. If we Trying to push from northern Italy into France or Germany would have been HARD. Very hard. Has anyone successfully invaded across that boarder except Hannibal and some Vandals?