Turkey, ahistorical WWII Evolvement

Turkish Army Infantry WWII Era

Turkey stayed out of the war and traded with Germany until very near the end, when it made a token declaration.

Case I: Turkey as a German victim. Idea is for Germany to directly threaten the Caucasus. It also gives the axis control of the Bosphorus-Dardanelles but I’m not sure that’s important. I’m not sure I really believe this idea.

Case II: Turkey as a German ally: As above, but no need for an invasion and the Turkish army as an ally. Turkey can influence events in the Caucasus, Syria, Iraq, maybe Greece.

Even after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he might have gained a partial victory if he had not possessed two more lethal defects— insistence on offensive solutions to military problems when his strength was inadequate, and attempting to keep all the territory he had seized when retreat would have preserved his forces. These failings led to disastrous offensives—Stalingrad, Tunisia, Kursk, the Bulge—and “no retreat” orders that destroyed huge portions of his army.

The way to victory was not through a frontal attack on the Soviet Union but an indirect approach through North Africa. This route was so obvious that all the British leaders saw it, as did a number of the German leaders, including Alfred Jodl, chief of operations of the armed forces; Erich Raeder, commander of the German Navy, and Erwin Rommel, destined to gain fame in North Africa as the Desert Fox.

After the destruction of France’s military power in 1940, Britain was left with only a single armored division to protect Egypt and the Suez Canal. Germany had twenty armored divisions, none being used. If the Axis— Germany and its ally Italy—had used only four of these divisions to seize the Suez Canal, the British Royal Navy would have been compelled to abandon the Mediterranean Sea, turning it into an Axis lake. French North Africa—Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia—could have been occupied, and German forces could have seized Dakar in Senegal on the west coast of Africa, from which submarines and aircraft could have dominated the main South Atlantic sea routes.

With no hope of aid, Yugoslavia and Greece would have been forced to come to terms. Since Hitler gained the support of Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, Germany would have achieved control of all southeastern Europe without committing a single German soldier.

Once the Suez Canal was taken, the way would have been open to German armored columns to overrun Palestine, Transjordan, the Arabian peninsula, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. This would have given Germany unlimited supplies of the single commodity it needed most: oil.

As important as oil was for the conduct of modern war, the greatest advantages of German occupation of the Arab lands and Iran would have been to isolate Turkey, threaten British control of India, and place German tanks and guns within striking distance of Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus and along the shores of the Caspian Sea. Turkey would have been forced to become an ally or grant transit rights to German forces, Britain would have had to exert all its strength to protect India, and the Soviet Union would have gone to any lengths to preserve peace with Germany because of its perilous position.

The Atlantic islands idea was more absurd than the Gibraltar plan. Only Admiral Raeder dared to tell Hitler so, and even he couched his objections in discreet terms. The German navy could actually seize the islands in surprise moves, Raeder assured Hitler, but it could not protect the sea lanes to them thereafter. The Royal Navy would erect an iron blockade in days. German garrisons would be cut off from supplies, except driblets that might be flown in. Few attacks on British convoys— much less air attacks on the United States—could be mounted, because the Germans could get little fuel to the islands.

Raeder’s logic was overwhelming and should have ended the matter right there. But it didn’t. Hitler continued to agitate for capture of the Atlantic islands on into the fall and beyond.

Since the army generals had been unable to sway the Fuehrer to carry out a Mediterranean strategy, Admiral Raeder weighed in on September 6 and September 26, 1940. At the second conference Raeder cornered Hitler alone and showed him step by step how Germany could defeat Britain elsewhere than over the English Channel. Doing so would put Germany in a commanding position against the Soviet Union.

Raeder, bowing to Hitler’s passions, said the Germans should take Gibraltar and secure the Canary Islands. But his main concern in that part of the world was the great northwestern bulge of Africa, largely controlled by France.

An imponderable regarding Hitler’s thinking is why, when he was negotiating France’s surrender, he did not demand admission of German troops into French North Africa—Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. If the French refused, he could have threatened to occupy all of France and deny the French a government at Vichy. Besides, the French had so few troops in North Africa they couldn’t have prevented a German occupation.

The importance of the region was forced upon him only three days before the September 26 conference: a joint operation of British and Free French forces under Charles de Gaulle had tried to seize Dakar, but had been beaten off by Vichy French guns. This reinforced Raeder’s conviction that the British, supported by the United States, would try to get a foothold in northwest Africa in order to move against the Axis. He urged Germany to team up with Vichy France to secure the region.

But Raeder’s main argument was that the Axis should capture the Suez Canal. After Suez, German panzers could advance quickly through Palestine and Syria as far as Turkey.

“If we reach that point, Turkey will be in our power,” Raeder emphasized. “The Russian problem will then appear in a different light. It is doubtful whether an advance against Russia from the north [that is, Poland and Romania] will be necessary.”

No one realized this truth better than Winston Churchill. In a message to President Roosevelt a few months later, he asserted that if Egypt and the Middle East were lost, continuation of the war “would be a hard, long, and bleak proposition,” even if the United States entered.

But Adolf Hitler had a much more difficult time seeing what was clear to Churchill. According to Raeder, Hitler agreed with his “general trend of thought” but had to talk things over with Mussolini, Franco, and Pétain. This shows Hitler was seeking limited tactical gains in the Mediterranean. Although a drive through Suez would call for an agreement with Mussolini, it would not require concurrence of Franco or Pétain. This indicates Hitler did not grasp that the victory over France had transformed the entire strategic outlook for Germany.

Raeder felt the senior army generals had a “purely continental outlook,” did not understand the war-winning opportunities that had opened up on the south shore of the Mediterranean, and would never counsel Hitler correctly. Although the OKH, the army high command, and the OKW, the armed forces high command, did advise Hitler to send troops to North Africa, their proposals lacked Raeder’s urgency. Never did Brauchitsch, Halder, Jodl, or Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of staff of the OKW, express the conviction that the war could be won in the Mediterranean, although Keitel told Benito Mussolini that capture of Cairo was more important than capture of London. Part of their hesitancy lay in the knowledge that Hitler had been fixed for a long time on destroying the Soviet Union and gaining Lebensraum in the east. Their careers depended upon not rocking that boat. However, they never stressed to Hitler, as did Raeder, that victory in the Mediterranean would make it easier to achieve victory over the Soviet Union.

Once Axis forces overran Egypt and the Suez Canal, they would close the eastern Mediterranean to the Royal Navy. The British fleet would immediately retreat into the Red Sea, because it could not be adequately supplied by convoys through the western Mediterranean. Whether or not the Germans seized Gibraltar, Britain would be strategically paralyzed.

The Axis would be able to move at will into the Middle East, for the British had no substantial forces there. This region produced much of the world’s oil, and its capture would provide ample amounts of Germany’s single most-needed strategic material.

An advance on the southern frontier of Turkey would put the Turks in an impossible position. Hitler was already gaining Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria as allies. Therefore, Turkey could be approached both by way of Bulgaria at Istanbul and from northern Iraq and Syria. Turkey would be forced to join the Axis or grant passage for Axis forces and supplies. A defiant stance would result in the swift defeat of the Turkish army and disaster.

Passage through Turkey would reduce the importance of Malta and Gibraltar. This way, both could be eliminated without the active support of Franco and without direct assault.

German forces could occupy French North Africa with or without Vichy France’s cooperation. From French Morocco, they could approach from the south the small strip of Morocco along the Strait of Gibraltar ruled by Spain. Spain would be forced to grant transit rights, or stand aside if German forces occupied the strip without permission. Spain could not resist for fear of a German attack into the heart of Spain from France. Consequently, German airfields and batteries could be set up along the south shore of the strait. This would close it to Britain—without an expensive military assault on the rock of Gibraltar.

Sealing the Strait of Gibraltar would force the British to abandon Malta, because they could not supply it.

With the Royal Navy out of the Mediterranean, it would become an Axis lake. This would permit German forces to occupy all of western Africa, including the French base at Dakar in Senegal. Aircraft, ships, and submarines from Dakar could close down much of Britain’s convoy traffic through the South Atlantic, even without seizure of the Cape Verde islands.

In the Middle East the strategic payoff would be much greater. German forces in Iran would block that country as a route for supplies to the Soviet Union from Britain and the United States. Russia would be left with only the ports of Murmansk on the Barents Sea and Archangel on the White Sea through which goods from the west could be funneled. This would require dangerous passages in atrocious weather, with constant danger of attacks by German ships and aircraft stationed in Norway.

Even more important, the Soviet Union’s major oil fields were in the Caucasus and along the western shore of the Caspian Sea, just north of Iran. Germany could threaten not only an attack directly from Poland and Romania in the west but also from the south through the Caucasus to the Soviet oil fields. This danger of envelopment and quick loss of oil would immobilize Stalin, and obligate him to provide Germany with whatever grain and raw materials it might need. In other words, Germany—without loss of a single soldier—would have the benefits of the Soviet Union’s vast materials storehouse, as well as delivery of tin, rubber, and other goods from Southeast Asia by way of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

A German position in Iran would also pose a huge threat to British control of India, which was agitating for independence under Mohandas K. Gandhi and other leaders. From Iran Germany could reach India through the Khyber and other passes, invasion routes used long before and long after Alexander the Great made the passage in 326 B.C. Germany would not actually have to do a thing. The threat alone would force Britain to commit every possible soldier to defend its crown jewel. Germany, again without the expenditure of a single man, could immobilize Britain.

In possession of the Middle East, all of North and West Africa, and Europe west of Russia, its armed forces virtually intact, its economy able to exploit the resources of three continents, Germany would be virtually invincible. Britain’s defiance on the periphery of Europe would become increasingly irrelevant. Germany would not have to inaugurate an all-out U-boat war against its shipping. Britain’s remaining strength would have to be expended in protecting its empire and the convoys to and from the home islands.

The United States would have no hope of launching an invasion of mainland Europe against an undefeated and waiting German army until it had spent years building a vast navy, army, and air force, not to speak of the transports, landing craft, vehicles, and weapons necessary for such a giant undertaking. It is possible that the United States would take on this task, but the chances for its success would be extremely small. Far more likely, the American people would turn first to counter the expansion of Japan in the Pacific.

Meanwhile Germany could consolidate its empire, bring subject nations into an economic union, and grow more powerful economically, militarily, and politically every day. Before long, the world would become accustomed to the new German Empire and insist on a return to normal international trade.

This at last would give Hitler the opportunity he had dreamed of since the 1920s—seizure of all the Soviet Union west of the Urals. Once a de facto cease-fire had been achieved, Hitler could strike at European Russia from south and west, drive Stalin and the surviving Soviets into Siberia, and get the Lebensraum he coveted.

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