The Mediterranean Strategy

The Express mentioned some new film about Churchill and mentioned the Med strategy.

Some comments:

# I have a copy of Lord Alanbrook’s diary and Churchill’s preference for the Mediterranean Strategy that was never popular with the Americans because the new American army was inexperienced and so that they could be ‘bloodied’ in a battle the outcome of which didn’t really matter in the long term, [it took place at] Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, where valuable lessons were learned and a lot of dead wood in their officer corps was cleared out by Eisenhower.

The successful conquest of Italy would also mean that allied troops could also be across the Alps and into eastern European countries like Austria, and Czechoslovakia before they could be liberated by the Soviet Red Army. Churchill never got his way in toto and the world inherited forty years of a divided Europe and the Cold War that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany.

But:

# Churchill was the right man politically to lead this country in WW2, especially in 1940 when we were “alone”, but his record in being a military strategist was truly horrific. He was responsible for the Gallipoli disaster in WW1… he wanted to invade Norway in 1940, only Hitler drew first… he wanted to send the Royal Navy on a suicidal charge into the Baltic Sea at the beginning of WW2, the admirals realising this would see the destruction of the fleet and the loss of the war, dodged and postponed this with clever word games to waste time and render the idea impractical even to Churchill.

And then there was the Force Z fiasco. On his express orders, and against the advice of the RN, he ordered the battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse to the Pacific, to deter the entire Imperial Japanese Navy. Attacked en masse by Japanese torpedo bombers. both ships were lost with huge loss of life, a folly that a two year old would have seen was a stupid idea.

And then we come back to Italy. No other land campaign cost as many lives of Western Allies than Italy, from the first landings until the final ceasefire and surrender of the German Army Group C, some 70,000 allied soldiers lost their lives, and all because Churchill insisted Italy should be invaded.

However:

# Churchill knew that once the red army occupied Eastern Europe it would be impossible to remove them. He wanted to go through Italy, seeing as the supply chain there was already well established and the equipment was there, landing craft etc. He wanted to push through the Balkans and occupy those lands before the Russians could.

Stalin played Roosevelt and convinced him to agree to the North France front. Roosevelt agreed this with Stalin behind Churchill’s back (and he was of course furious). It was a massive error and people are still paying for it today nearly 80 years later.

When Churchill found out about Roosevelt’s stupidity he managed to get Russia to promise to leave Greece alone, that’s the best he could do out of the situation that Roosevelt put him in.

So all the landing craft and massive supplies went to North France and the Italian campaign became bogged down. It was a gift to the Germans and yes 6 months is a valid estimation for how much longer the war lasted.

My source: Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees

Can of worms. What thinkest thou about the best strategy?

4 comments for “The Mediterranean Strategy

  1. dearieme
    June 17, 2017 at 22:49

    Churchill kept referring to Italy as the “soft underbelly of Europe”.

    Look at a relief map of Italy, and then at a relief map of the North European plain, from Normandy to Berlin. Which would you rather defend?

    Churchill was the man for the hour – which was 1940.
    Maybe ’41 too. After that he was perhaps the wrong man, though I don’t know that there was a better bet available.

    • June 18, 2017 at 07:01

      There was the factor of his voice coming from those radios nightly – it was important too.

  2. james wilson
    June 19, 2017 at 02:44

    The Germans were ecstatic when the Allies invaded Italy. Mussolini was not capable of providing anything of value to the war except his land to bog down Allied forces. There was absolutely no good reason for MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines either, to say nothing of Adolf’s invasion of Russia. Clemenseau may have been right. Wars are won by the side that makes fewer mistakes.

    Roosevelt was not taken in by Stalin. We were taken in by Roosevelt.

    Looking back we can see, I hope, the futility of super-fortresses, bombing from 25,000 feet (carpet or otherwise) and innumerable other things.

    • June 19, 2017 at 07:08

      “Wars are won by the side that makes fewer mistakes.”

      Precisely what is happening in the America’s Cup right now.

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