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Thread: Explorations in Strategy - Italy at War

  1. #501
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Very nicely done in Spain! Especially that border with Gibraltar.

    Too bad you've got that silly little province of Nationalist territory interfering...

    And, yes, I'm sure the Nationalists are none too happy with "Italian Spain".

    Who now?

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  2. #502
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    Rensslaer: Yes, all in all I'm pleased with my intervention. As for now, I just lay quiet for a little while.

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  3. #503
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    The Year of Preparation
    Part 6: Redeployments, March – December, 1938

    With the war in Spain over, Mussolini immediately began reconsidering the deployment of his armies. There was one army on the Yugoslavian border, two on the French border, one on the Egyptian-Libyan border and one in Spain, as well as a handful of small corps spread out over the Italian coast for defensive purposes. Mussolini aimed to optimize the deployment of his armies to best counter likely future threats, and to fulfill likely future scenarios.

    In Spain, Mussolini formed an army group and placed it under the command of Field Marshal Nasi, a man who knew his logistics. Given the size of Cartagena’s port, which could only berth a minor handful of ships at any given time, and the plans the general staff was formulating concerning Spain, logistics would become the most important aspect of any strategy in that region. The Italian general staff had drawn up plans for a defensive war against the Spanish, in case Franco’s ire with Mussolini spilled out into actual combat operations. Given the ire Britain and France in particular held toward Mussolini, he knew that the only war between Italy and Spain would be one that Spain would have to start. Mussolini expected war to come at some point, particularly when the Spanish began garrisoning the border with a myriad of divisions. By late April, Italian intelligence had identified at least eleven divisions, as well as fifteen independent brigades and the list was growing longer. To deal with this, Mussolini had ordered Grazioli to release Grossi’s army from his direct subordination and send it over to bolster the defenses of Iberia, as the new Italian province as called. Grossi would go under Nasi’s command, who would in turn report to Grazioli. Grazioli’s forces had just doubled.

    Musolini had given the general staff a basic set of war aims for any war with the Spanish, whether it was an offensive war or a defensive one. Foremost of this list was the linking up of the two beachheads. Given the vulnerability of the western beachhead and what he believed to be the likelihood of war, Mussolini decided against constructing port facilities in that beachhead yet, as it would likely be quickly overrun in case of war and would, furthermore, be linked up with Iberia once the Italian armies were successful. Also high on the list of war aims were the destruction of copious amounts of the Spanish army and the capture of both Valencia and Tarragona, which would deprive the Spanish of an east coast port besides their islands, and give Italian logistics a large amount of breathing room. With this in mind, Grossi’s army of seven divisions was west of Cartagena. Its task would be to fend off attacks from that direction and link up with the western beachhead, destroying any Spanish forces it came into contact with in the process. Pintor’s army of eight divisions was sent northward. Its objectives were the two ports of the Spanish east coast and destroying any units it would come into contact this. The plans for this war were referred to as Operation Valeria Victrix.


    A broad overview of the Iberian situation.

    To replace Grossi’s army, which had garrisoned the Egyptian-Libyan border, Mussolini decided to strip Italy’s coastal defenses. Working under the assumption that Italy was going to go onto the offensive in the coming war, and with sufficient speed that the Mediterranean would be turned into an exclusively Italian body of water, Mussolini reasoned that Italy would have no need of a coastal defense. Vercellino, who surrendered the majority of his army to Pintor’s expeditionary force, returned to command of this new desert army. It consisted of only six divisions at the time of forming, but Mussolini was not yet done with it, though Vercellino had to wait a month before reinforcements arrived. Vercellino’s main task was offensive. He was to conquer the important areas of Egypt in two bounds. The first bound was to take him to the Nile Delta and Alexandria, which he would capture for logistical purposes and to deny the British Mediterranean Fleet its main base. The second bound would take him over the Suez Canal, thus securing it for Italy’s own purposes. This would be difficult to do with only six infantry divisions, even though the British army in Egypt appeared to be only a third of that in size. This operation was referred to as Octavian.


    Vercellino’s new army in Libya, also under Grazioli’s command.

    Before completing Vercellino’s command, Mussolini turned toward the forces on the Yugoslavian border. What had in 1935 been home to three armies—under Bastico, Guzzoni and Vercellino—had been weakened to only one, under Bastico. This army was by far the weakest of all Italian armies. It consisted of only four infantry divisions in two corps, which Mussolini soon combined into one. Its primary strategic purpose was to appear weak and keep the Yugoslavians complacent that Italy was not planning anything and so preclude their mobilization. Neither Mussolini nor the general staff considered that Bastico’s force could possible operate on its own, not even defensively. Though Mussolini’s roving eye occasionally touched upon Yugoslavia, it was always with the assumption of a later date.


    Bastico’s 2a Armata, before his two corps were combined into one.

    The remnants of Guzzoni’s Alpine army were used as reinforcements for Vercellino’s new army in Libya. These reinforcements originally consisted of three divisions, each with two cavalry brigades and one motorized infantry brigade. One of them also had a brigade of armored cars. These divisions would be in their own separate corps: the Corpo d’Armat Celere. Later, Mussolini would take the motorized infantry and armored car brigades and form them into their own division under Bergonzoli, to create the single largest division in the Regio Esercito, of four brigades. This force of three, later four, fast divisions—though it was arguable how effective cavalry would be in the desert, this perhaps precipitating the dedicated motorized division—was to be the main thrusting element of the army, to help it bypass the British defenders and reach Alexandria before supplies from Italy’s three Libyan ports—Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk—gave out.


    Vercellino receiving all of Italy’s mobile divisions.

    Mussolini made no change to the two armies bordering France; that country was a large enough threat to warrant two full armies. These redeployments indicate trends in Mussolini’s thinking. He was not rating Yugoslavia as either a threat or a target yet. He was, however, worried about and even hoping for a Spanish declaration of war so that he could complete the job that had been mostly achieved already, grab more territory, particularly two valuable ports, as well as shatter the Spanish army to reduce its threat to Iberia’s security. Finally, his insistence on keeping an army on the Egyptian-Libyan border shows that he kept his strategic priorities straight: to keep the Mediterranean an Italian lake, he had to secure the Suez Canal.
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  4. #504
    Field Marshal Maj. von Mauser's Avatar
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    Grazioli really has a large command now! Things look good, hopefully you have enough to take Suez.
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  5. #505
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    I would not put the troops directly against the English border, it just ensures that the AI will also put a lot of troops there against your forces.
    Keep them hidden from the Britons...

  6. #506
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    Very, very interesting update. Looks like Il Duce's thinking in regards to Spain has changed...or modified somewhat since a year ago. Now he appears to be viewing the country as a possible enemy, rather than a brother in arms. I applaud the Duce's bravado and insight!
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  7. #507
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    Spies, and the spies who spied on them.

    Of course there's a diplomatic action available for Nat Spain, support the rebels!
    "You cannot have good laws without good arms." (Niccolo Machiavelli)

  8. #508
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    Maj. von Mauser: I hope so too. I've had naval units snooping around the Egyptian coast a couple times and it seems like those two divisions on the border are the only units in Egypt, notwithstanding their HQ of course.

    Enewald: Ehh, the Brits haven't changed their defensive posture at all so far. They had two divisions there when I had none, they had two divisions there when Grossi was on the border and they'll probably have two divisions when facing Vercellino as well.

    Jorath13: To be honest, my initial friendliness toward the Nationalists, particularly my decision to intervene on their side, was a historical reflex more than anything. As you may remember, about a month later I had already begun regretting it!

    Valentinan: That's true, hadn't thought of that.
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  9. #509
    It appears you are still outnumbered and outgunned in Iberia. You're not thinking of starting a war on those terms, I'm sure?
    "Now theatres are a very special animal..."

  10. #510
    Nice set of plans. Too bad Yugoslavia must wait. That's the one that is easiest to manage, logistically.

    Has the AI assigned different theaters yet? Do you have, for instance, a Spanish theater?

    -- Beppo

  11. #511
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    Juan_de_Marco: I'm not starting of thinking a war in Spain anyway, that would be one DOW too far and the Allies would deal pretty heavy-handedly with that. But if war did come, those are the forces I would use.

    Beppo: I have no idea about the separate theaters, actually. I've not checked.

    No update today guys. I'm off to NYC for the day to meet an old university friend who's flying back to Britain in the evening.
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  12. #512
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    Have a good time with your friend.
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  13. #513
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    Well, they shall bring more troops there soon, I would assume.
    The AI always reacts to your troop concentrations.

  14. #514
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    Oh my, just look at the size of your Spain!

    Impressive-looking (if largely meaningless) gains in the Iberian Peninsula. So now you can attempt to strike Gibraltar directly, when war comes. Will you have enough time to put the necessary port infrastructure in place, before Adolf starts his Polish rampage? I know HOI3 is nowhere near as deterministic as previous iterations, but you know that in about two years the brown stuff will hit the fan...

    Sensible redeployments everywhere. I do wonder if your adhoc conquest of one fifth of Spain is going to tax your armed forces to the breaking point. I guess you can always abandon Iberia (save the foothold next to the Rock) if you urgently need those troops in the desert.

    Looking forward to future developments.

  15. #515
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    Maj. von Mauser: Thanks, I did!

    Enewald: We'll see.

    Stuyvesant: Aye, we shall see what the future brings when we reach it. As for my deployments, they're made with the next year to eighteen months in mind by priority.

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  16. #516
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    Stripping the coastal defenses is a little risky but probably necessary. You need those troops in other, more vulnerable areas. Hopefully the RM and the air force can keep the British away from your coasts.
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  17. #517
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    VILenin: It's not as much needing those troops in more vulnerable areas as needing them for future offensive action. As for my coastline, I'm hoping my first line of defense will be Gibraltar and Suez, when that time comes.

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  18. #518
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    The Year of Preparation
    Part 7: Technology and Procurement I, January – June, 1938

    The first half of 1938 was a good time for Italian research and development firms. Cantieri, as usual, produced most of the advances but these months increasingly saw Mussolini begin to broaden Italy’s research interests, in preparation for the inevitable war to come. This new breadth reflected both the increasing political instability in Europe, the state of the Regia Marina from a technological perspective and lessons learned in Spain..

    Even as the war in Spain was still raging, with the last and hardest battles about to come, Italian education took another leap forward in both in quality and coverage as recent initiatives took hold. This was estimated to have led to a five percent increase in the number of high school and university graduates whose young and inquiring minds could be put to use in the service of the Italian state and burgeoning empire. In what may have come as a surprise to some, but was a great satisfaction to those on the general staff, Mussolini then decided to order a general staff study on Italy’s operational level organization and on ways to improve it. The anticipated result of this study was that it would result in the streamlining of command processes and allow Italian units to move back onto the offensive after a battle quicker.


    Another great advance in Italian education.

    Not even three weeks after the end of the Spanish adventure, a disturbing report crossed Mussolini’s desk concerning the suddenly parlous state of Italian research. Due to Mussolini’s earlier insistence that Italy’s neutral nature be reduced as quickly as possible, he had turned a relatively blind eye to the occasional international sabotage in the research sphere. It was never particularly serious or long lasting. However, with the international political fallout of the Spanish intervention, suddenly the major states of the world were all focusing on Italy. Italian intelligence discovered that the combined activity of foreign spies was slowing Italian research down by over ten percent!


    Damned spies!

    Mussolini immediately decided that Italy was belligerent enough and whatever neutrality that remained was irrelevant and throw his entire intelligence service into counterespionage. Within a week, over twenty-seven spies had been discovered and eliminated. This led to a notable improvement in research endeavors, as Italy’s most recent supply production initiative was suddenly completed as workers or managers whose dilatoriness was funded by foreign money were instantly without jobs. Mussolini ordered that another initiative succeed this one, confident that these machinations would not seriously touch Italian supply production again in the future.


    The first counterespionage sweep in Italy brought incredible results.

    Soon after counterespionage activities began, the steady avalanche of completed contracts truly began. Cantieri completed contracts for light cruiser engines and anti-aircraft armament on the same day, bringing their knowledge of these up to the anticipated level of 1940, still two years distant. To their surprise, however, Mussolini decided against renewing their contracts and pushing for the anticipated level of 1942, deeming that it was not an efficient use of time. Instead, he awarded a contract to Breda for a new light artillery piece, and ordered another general staff study, this one on infantry warfare. Mussolini was beginning to turn away from preparing his navy, at least on a technological level, to preparing his army, which was just as important in his maritime strategy for its capabilities in claiming the littoral for Italy.


    Cantieri’s first two completed contracts of 1938. More were to come.

    The next contract was also a Cantieri one, for light cruiser main armament. In keeping with Mussolini’s previous decision, this was not renewed and instead a contract went out to Italian oil companies to improve their refining techniques. In early May Cantieri submitted yet another completed contract, for improved aircraft carrier engines. Mussolini renewed this contract; while Italian light cruisers were ahead of their time technologically, Italian aircraft carriers were not. Soon after came yet another Cantieri contract, for aircraft carrier armor. This was also renewed.


    Another of Cantieri’s completed contracts.

    The final spate of contracts were completed in June. First, Italian industry as a whole reported an average efficiency increase of two and a half percent. Mussolini replaced this initiative with one specifically aimed at the refining of rare materials. Next, a general staff study on supply organization was completed, to the great benefit of Mussolini’s maritime strategy and, in immediate practical terms, to the army group in Iberia. Mussolini ordered a follow-up study on supply transportation. Halfway through the month, Cantieri completed their work on aircraft carrier hangars and had their contract renewed. The next day, they reported completion of their work to improve aircraft carrier anti-aircraft armament and that contract was renewed. Their completion of their last light cruiser contract, for armor, was completed in the last week of June but the next contract was instead sent out to the segment of Italian industry that dealt with converting coal to oil. In late June as well, Mussolini ordered that Cartagena’s harbor be expanded. Additionally, he ordered another two light cruisers to be built, from Cantieri yards.


    Italian procurements at the half-year point: note that the RM Falco would be completed in only another few short months.

    A pattern can be inferred to have begun at this point, a pattern in which the government-sponsored ascent of the naval yards, particularly those of Cantieri, at the expense of nearly the entire rest of Italian industry came to an end and a sort of balance was restored. Cantieri, which had probably had over thirty contracts over the previous two years, was suddenly reminded that it was only one part of the Italian preparatory effort, albeit still a very important one. Mussolini began at this point to improve other aspects of the Italian war machine, partially due to lessons learned in Spain and partially due to the fact that he knew the time was drawing close when real war would come. Italy had to be ready, and Mussolini’s single-minded attempt to technologically place the Regia Marina in a position of ascendency over the other powers of Europe had largely come to fruition. It was indeed time to broaden his efforts.
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  19. #519
    Revolutionary Leader VILenin's Avatar
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    An 11% research penalty? Ouch! I see you were exaggerating about your spy problems before. Now that the Regina Marina has been brought up to date, it seems it's time for the army and air force to get their dues. I hope you build some Mountain Divisions for a Balkan excursion.

    As to Italy's defense, if your plan works and you can seal off the Med by quickly capturing Gibraltar and Suez then you've as good as won, I think. It's doubtful that the British will station sufficient forces in that theatre ahead of time to decisively defeat you, and without the possibility of reinforcement their defeat will only be a matter of time. And of the two Gibraltar is by far the more pressing objective; without it the Brits have to sail around the Cape to get to Egypt, so you have a larger window there. With that in mind I feel I have to retract some of my earlier skepticism and concur with your assessment that operations in Spain were a success. The territory is still an ugly hodgepodge on the map, though.
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  20. #520
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    Whut VILenin sed.

    Do you have any idea of how large the RN opposition is going to be in the Med, even if you manage to close Gib and Suez? I assume the Brits have sizeable naval forces already on station.

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