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Full-On Axis French Fleet + Kriegsmarine / Regia Marina = Problem for Allies?

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Hello!  I thought this would be an interesting question.  If it was already asked already, feel free to close the thread.

A big factor concerning the Second World War was the Marine Nationale.  Aside from a few skirmishes and battles here and there, they were mostly a non-factor in the entire conflict, neither supporting the Allies or Axis in large offensives.   Nevertheless, they could've been a big tipping point prior to the massive scuttling in Toulon due to their relatively big numbers and good technology.

While we can conclude that a full-on Allied Marine Nationale would've helped end the war faster, at least on the high seas, what about a fully loyal Axis Marine Nationale?  What I mean is a Marine Nationale that is fully committed to the Axis cause.  While that would definitely not work from a historical and political perspective, I'm mostly looking at this from a military perspective, so that is ignoring politics overall.

While I'm also aware that the French had naval assets in the Pacific as well, I recall that they were very limited, so they probably wouldn't have too much of an effect on the war there.  That is why I'm focusing on the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters since the French Navy was very big in those sectors.

XX

For this question, I was either thinking around the time of France's formal surrender, which led to the creation of the Vichy French regime.  Ignoring De Gaulle and the French French movement, lets just say that they have no naval assets and the French navy is mostly 100% fine with formally helping the Axis.

If the Marine Nationale joined the Axis with French personnel and material, how would've that affected the British Royal Navy in terms of planning and logistics, especially if the French were working alongside the German and Italian navies in their operations? 

How would've that affected American planning when the United States Navy inevitably join the war effort after Pearl Harbor since they did have units in the Atlantic?

Could the Axis overpower the Allies in Europe with the Marine Nationale on their side?

If the war is won by the Allies, what do you think would be the fate of the Marine Nationale?  After all, the Axis navies post-war were dissolved and their more important units were split up among the winners...with some small exceptions (i.e. the Andrea Doria-class battleships staying with Italy).

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The key problem is oil.  The US almost went to war with Hitler if the French Navy fell under the Axis sphere on influence.  Because they did not, the US remained isolationist and continued trading oil to Vichy France.  An Axis Marine National would create yet another massive drain on the Axis oil reserves that couldn't even keep the Regina Marina running and the US would absolutely not continue oil exports to France which would be the fatal blow to the French economy.  Mass starvation as food would no longer reach the markets.

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The Axis fleets didn't even have enough fuel for their own fleets, nevermind having to also somehow supply the 4th largest navy in the world.

 

Aside from that, though, still an interesting prospect.

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland

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Agreed with above, that said though if Hitler actually listened to some of his smarter people he would have secured oil early in the war things would have been different. The German navy wouldn't have changed much I believe but bring the Italians and even half of the French navy assets and England would have been in serious trouble

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19 hours ago, Psycodiver said:

Agreed with above, that said though if Hitler actually listened to some of his smarter people he would have secured oil early in the war things would have been different. The German navy wouldn't have changed much I believe but bring the Italians and even half of the French navy assets and England would have been in serious trouble

Are we talking the push in Russia for oil by Germany?  Because that was Hitler wanting to push for the critical oil in the south.  His generals were the ones that wanted Moscow, which would have done nothing.

 

With the end of the war, all these German generals gladly threw Hitler under the bus for the nation's strategic failure, but it was Hitler that was pushing for the oil objectives.  Military leadership wanted to plant the flag on Moscow instead.

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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On 9/21/2019 at 8:59 PM, Royeaux said:

The key problem is oil.  The US almost went to war with Hitler if the French Navy fell under the Axis sphere on influence.  Because they did not, the US remained isolationist and continued trading oil to Vichy France.  An Axis Marine National would create yet another massive drain on the Axis oil reserves that couldn't even keep the Regina Marina running and the US would absolutely not continue oil exports to France which would be the fatal blow to the French economy.  Mass starvation as food would no longer reach the markets.

^ agree with this.

You can have as big of a fleet as you want, containing the most powerful battleships ever created.

But you are going to go nowhere unless you have the fuel to move them.

Just ask the IJN.

13 hours ago, HazeGrayUnderway said:

Are we talking the push in Russia for oil by Germany?  Because that was Hitler wanting to push for the critical oil in the south.  His generals were the ones that wanted Moscow, which would have done nothing.

 

With the end of the war, all these German generals gladly threw Hitler under the bus for the nation's strategic failure, but it was Hitler that was pushing for the oil objectives.  Military leadership wanted to plant the flag on Moscow instead.

Popular misconception: you win the war by taking your enemies Capital.

In terms of morale, it might give you a short term advantage, but unless you completely decapitate the leadership........ all you have is a city.

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I will just repeat myself. As long as participants on both sides were willing to go for total war the Axis lost before the war even started. Germany especially achieved none of the political maneuvering needed to secure an even playing field before the war. Indeed they even started off on a worse foot than ww1 this time around imoo.

 

I realize it is hard for some but the French were thinking Franco-Prussian war repeat. The things to give away in the coming peace were the empire and the fleet. They lost and were waiting out for the peace process. Same mistake the Italians made, jump on board before the short war ended. If anything turned the Vichy into the vilified nation they are today it was Churchill propping up his war effort by going after his former ally that he had left for dead.

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47 minutes ago, Lord_Slayer said:

Popular misconception: you win the war by taking your enemies Capital.

In terms of morale, it might give you a short term advantage, but unless you completely decapitate the leadership........ all you have is a city.

Napoleon took Moscow, but the Russians kept on resisting and supplies dwindled for the French.

 

Germany taking Moscow in WWII wouldn't have done much.  They surely would have bled heavily for it, but the strategic resources were elsewhere (the SOUTH where Hitler really wanted to go), the industry had moved, the ports receiving Western Allied Lend-Lease aid would still be secure, and there's till tons of the Red Army.  And the German military would be worn down.  Would be fun for German logistics to keep forces that far out supplied, because they were already sputtering and gave out in 1941 at the gates of Moscow.

 

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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On 9/21/2019 at 7:59 PM, Royeaux said:

The key problem is oil.  The US almost went to war with Hitler if the French Navy fell under the Axis sphere on influence.  Because they did not, the US remained isolationist and continued trading oil to Vichy France.  An Axis Marine National would create yet another massive drain on the Axis oil reserves that couldn't even keep the Regina Marina running and the US would absolutely not continue oil exports to France which would be the fatal blow to the French economy.  Mass starvation as food would no longer reach the markets.

Actually this is interesting thread since to my knowledge while discussing results of French ships falling into Axis hands, we have not actually discussed the results of French Navy willingly serving Axis. And once again I feel that if the Axis locked down the Mediterranean, they could have oil and resources shipped almost at will. You would however need Artillery fortresses built at entry points to the Mediterranean as well as Air bases, and some sort of Fleet bases nearby to respond to Allied forces trying to get in.

The problems for the Axis was they never achieved total dominance over the Mediterranean (among other issues). In order to invade a secured Mediterranean complete with internal oil supplies, you would need to invade either Africa, Middle East or both. And likely try and move fleets into the Mediterranean as well. Just not sure if allies could have risked major land invasions from within Mediterranean to capture the oil fields. But if land forces were able to cut across land from Atlantic and Indian Oceans they might have better time of it depending on Axis response and the climate.

Other problem is whether or not Soviet Union could withstand such events since assuming Germany still did their invasion of the Soviet Union, I am not certain if Allies could still have provided Arctic convoys to help Russian while they relocated tank factories if Middle East and Africa were being invaded to halt the Axis since such invasions would tie up a lot of resources. And America going into the wat would still require some time to ramp up production despite being able to do so quickly. I mean if you look at what had to go into D-Day landings and Pacific island landings... Of course as long as Japan stayed out of things and America mobilized her industrial might earlier assuming the events we are discussing here are early enough in the war that they are pre Pearl Harbor, then America could funnel everything it could spare to strike at European Axis powers.

Although if America declared war on European Axis powers, Japan could possibly have declared war on America in a reverse order of how it happened historically. Which according to some IJN vs USN theories could have been more beneficial to IJN if USN had sent their fleet to engage in more traditional naval warfare as Pearl Harbor would not have happened to persuade world naval powers of undeniable power of CVs just yet. If the battle took place early enough even without Yamato Class the IJN  could probably have done well enough to possibly bring up talks of a treaty with the Allies where Japanese get control of Oriental Asia area in exchange for an end to hostilities. If Hostilities with Japan did not end then America would have needed to send resources to fight the Pacific war which would likely lighten up their ability to retake Mediterranean. Not saying Axis could have necessarily won or gotten a ceasefire or something, but their chances would have been a little higher than in reality for their success if not victory then to at least have the war drag on for a few more years with sadly more losses on both sides.

Honestly I am glad France did not willingly side with Axis and instead for the most part resisted the Axis when at all possible. Because a French surprise surprise attack on Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet would have in the very least not have been helpful at all. People so easily judge the French as completely useless in WWII, but they did try their best to do what they could and have heard many heroic deeds even French civilians did to defy the Germans and protect innocent people. And to be fair Blitzkrieg warfare was so revolutionary that it did surprise the world in how tanks could be used for far more than WWI style warfare, same with aircraft, the paratroopers, Artillery, ect. (Actually ironic how Allies used their own Blitzkrieg tank push across Europe into Berlin with fast M4 tanks and fast tank Destroyers, supported by fighters and ground assist aircraft.)

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9 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

The problems for the Axis was they never achieved total dominance over the Mediterranean (among other issues). In order to invade a secured Mediterranean complete with internal oil supplies, you would need to invade either Africa, Middle East or both. And likely try and move fleets into the Mediterranean as well. Just not sure if allies could have risked major land invasions from within Mediterranean to capture the oil fields. But if land forces were able to cut across land from Atlantic and Indian Oceans they might have better time of it depending on Axis response and the climate.

The problem with this is that the Mediterranean doesn't contain much oil resources in it.  The Middle East only had a minor amount of oil production.  On top of that, in Allied hands they could relocate those oil stockpiles before the Axis could even take over.  Iran has the most oil of the Middle East but it isn't even connected to the Mediterranean.  British Indian Army are far more in an ideal position to defend the Iran from Germany because the Germans would have to invade very far away from their major supply lines.

DW8ir3p.png

14 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Other problem is whether or not Soviet Union could withstand such events since assuming Germany still did their invasion of the Soviet Union, I am not certain if Allies could still have provided Arctic convoys to help Russian while they relocated tank factories if Middle East and Africa were being invaded to halt the Axis since such invasions would tie up a lot of resources. And America going into the wat would still require some time to ramp up production despite being able to do so quickly. I mean if you look at what had to go into D-Day landings and Pacific island landings... Of course as long as Japan stayed out of things and America mobilized her industrial might earlier assuming the events we are discussing here are early enough in the war that they are pre Pearl Harbor, then America could funnel everything it could spare to strike at European Axis powers.

If the US ended up going to war early, the Soviets would be getting more aid.  While America wasn't mobilzed, the USN was still mostly funded by FDR (former secretary of the Navy).  When comparing assets, the USN provides more for the Allies in 1940 then the Marine National would for the Axis.  Maybe the USA wouldn't go to war, but for the most part FDR did not want to be involved in the war, but also would not let Germany snowball and become a major threat to them.  With so many ships under Axis control, it would push FDR into decisive action.

 

18 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

lthough if America declared war on European Axis powers, Japan could possibly have declared war on America in a reverse order of how it happened historically. Which according to some IJN vs USN theories could have been more beneficial to IJN if USN had sent their fleet to engage in more traditional naval warfare as Pearl Harbor would not have happened to persuade world naval powers of undeniable power of CVs just yet. If the battle took place early enough even without Yamato Class the IJN  could probably have done well enough to possibly bring up talks of a treaty with the Allies where Japanese get control of Oriental Asia area in exchange for an end to hostilities. If Hostilities with Japan did not end then America would have needed to send resources to fight the Pacific war which would likely lighten up their ability to retake Mediterranean. Not saying Axis could have necessarily won or gotten a ceasefire or something, but their chances would have been a little higher than in reality for their success if not victory then to at least have the war drag on for a few more years with sadly more losses on both sides.

I'm not sure the USN would engage with the IJN first.  For one, the USN hadn't even transferred it's fleet out of San Diego to Pearl Harbor yet.  For two, the US citizenry were concerned far more with Germany in 1940.  And for three, the Japanese were preoccupied with invaded French Indochina.  And four, the US's major asset in the Pacific is the Philippines which the Japanese can't just invade on a dime.  Naval invasions take time and Japanese pre preparation for invading the Philippines only started historically in Nov 1941.  If the US was not yet mobilized as you point out, then I see little reason why they would concentrate on the Pacific War which wouldn't be that hot yet.

 

29 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Actually this is interesting thread since to my knowledge while discussing results of French ships falling into Axis hands, we have not actually discussed the results of French Navy willingly serving Axis. And once again I feel that if the Axis locked down the Mediterranean, they could have oil and resources shipped almost at will. You would however need Artillery fortresses built at entry points to the Mediterranean as well as Air bases, and some sort of Fleet bases nearby to respond to Allied forces trying to get in.

The problem here is that the Mediterranean isn't that important.  The British didn't need it, the Soviets didn't need it, nor did the Americans need.  It made it convenient for the Allies to invade the Axis, but the resources the Axis critically needed lay outside of the Mediterranean. 

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I've always felt that the Vichy fleet being scuttled was one of the key events of the war. While it wouldn't have turned the tide entirely in the Axis favour in a single moment if Marine Nationale ships had been put to sea with Kriegsmarine crews and banners, it certainly would have caused the Allies some long-term grief. Gibraltar would easily be at risk of defeat from overwhelming numbers, and once the combined German (French) and Italian ships hit the Atlantic, the Allies would have had to pour more resources into defending their assets at sea. The Americans would have had to commit more ships to the European theatre, the British would have had to recall what they could spare to defend England from a renewed threat, and the RAF and USAF would have had to work overtime harassing the new surface threats.
This also would have made things MUCH more complicated for the eventual invasion, and the additional naval front would have relieved some of the pressure on the Imperial Navy in the Pacific, potentially causing a change of events there and giving them a chance to regroup after Midway a few months prior

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I have little doubt that a fully Axis-aligned Regia Marina would have definitely complicated the situation in the European naval front for the British. I don't think even with the combined forces of the Italian, French and German navies (well, what little the Germans had in the way of surface power, anyways) could have threatened the British navy at an existential level (like how the USN basically annihilated the IJN by the war's end), but British resources would definitely be more strained than they would be otherwise.

On the other hand, such an act would definitely signal to the world (including, crucially, the US) that the Vichy government is going all-in with the Axis, and not just begrudgingly going along with the terms of the peace try the Nazis enforced on them or even as a neutral country. Thus, as previously mentioned, the US would cut off oil supplies to Vichy France which could probably just end up condemning the Vichy French navy to port anyways without a shot being fired. Of course, the threat of the Regia Marina would probably force the US to bring in many more forces into the European theater, especially given the number of battleships the Regia Marina possessed. Nevertheless, once the USN started rolling the ball with its vast waves of carrier task forces, the outcome would never be really in doubt.

Once the war is won, France may just end up being treated like an enemy power instead of an occupied friendly power, unless some sort of significant anti-Vichy uprising occurs.

In short, a fully Axis-aligned French navy would probably force the Allies to devote more time and resources to the European theater, but ultimately would not be able to even fight to a stalemate the combined forces of the American and British navies.

Truthfully, I wonder if attempting to have the Regia Marina act as an active Axis-affiliated combatant would have just caused more internal political resistance and undermined Vichy France from the start. Many in France accepted the Vichy Regime as a temporary measure that would allow France a better position to recover in between the surrender and what they assumed to be an imminent Nazi-British peace treaty. With the Regia Marina actively participating in hostilities against the British, the attack on Mers-el-Kébir may not have soured British-French relations as much as it did, and perhaps support for the Vichy regime may have fallen even more rapidly than it did in reality.

 

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On 9/21/2019 at 5:34 PM, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

For this question, I was either thinking around the time of France's formal surrender, which led to the creation of the Vichy French regime.  Ignoring De Gaulle and the French French movement, lets just say that they have no naval assets and the French navy is mostly 100% fine with formally helping the Axis.

Well, why would the MN be 100% happy with formally helping the Axis? Their homeland has just been overrun and occupied.

The only reason for a French intervention on the side of the Axis would be in response to Operation Catapult, and at that point Catapult had interned, destroyed or put out of action of France's battleship fleet the Richelieu (still incomplete) Dunkerque, Provence, Bretagne, Paris, Courbet and Lorraine. The Jean Bart was sitting incomplete. Three heavy cruisers were interned in Alexandria. The Strasbourg made it back to France after the attack on Mers el Kebir but that's about it.  The threat of the French Navy was greatly reduced in the near to medium term.

If there's a French switch-over without a Catapult that changes the calculus, but it likely takes Catapult to trigger the switch.

Catapult triggers switch -

With Catapult the major remaining French units of note are the Strasbourg, Algerie, 3 older heavy cruisers and some light cruisers. The French submarine force was large for 1940 with about 40 coastal and 40 fleet submarines at the outbreak of WWII. The destroyer force is relatively small but includes some potent vessels, as well as some dead weights.

That is not a tremendously powerful force, though in the Mediterranean context it's not insignificant and it includes some very high threat vessels. The Strasbourg for instance as a counter-commerce raider is pretty perfect to go raiding in turn. The Contre-Torpilleurs are a high speed intruder threat and the context of most of the French navy being concentrated in the Mediterranean, and also the presence of French colonies also makes things very difficult, for instance here's a situation map if France turns to the Axis:

DB74deu.png

Well, that was a fun 5 minutes.

As you can see in the wider Mediterranean theater the British position with full fledged war with France worsens considerably. The French own most of Morocco at the time, along with Algeria, Tunisia and Senegal. That means instead of the British Gibraltar-Malta route following a neutral shoreline it follows a hostile one, one with French bases at Mers el Kebir and Bone/Bizerte on the coast of Algeria, as well as Toulon in southern France. What is already an arduous convoy route is now sandwiched between hostile shores and presumably far harder to maintain. French/Italian units can potentially base out of Algeria and pose an even greater threat.

Out on the Atlantic coast the French possess few major units, Jean Bart sits without half her guns in Casablanca, Richelieu sat damaged in Dakar in French Senegal. Those bases however, if used by the Germans, and if they can be maintained may provide useful U-boat havens, and are a further complication to either attack, blockade or otherwise deal with. The French have other worldwide colonies such as Madagascar (eventually occupied by the British to prevent Japanese occupation) in SE Asia, the Pacific and in the Caribbean.

The British position in the central Mediterranean is perhaps untenable.

The solution to this might be the abandonment of Malta and a fall back on Gibraltar, possibly even evacuating Egypt and blowing the crud out of the Suez Canal as you go, dumping as many blockships in it as possible. That locks up the Axis in the Med - most of the French naval assets are there. The question would then be 'can the British hold Gibraltar?' Which will be critical. Without it the French and Italians can get out of the Med and use French West African ports to cause havock, or potentially even relocate to French Channel ports such as Brest and assist in any possible invasion of the UK itself. All circumstances there are bad.

To hold Gibraltar the British would have a not inconsiderable squadron, we know they had in July 1940 (for Catapult) Hood, Valiant, Resolution and the carrier Ark Royal (the perpetrators of Mers el Kebir). At the western end of the Med at that point Admiral Cunningham has a force focused around Warspite, Malaya, Royal Sovereign and the carrier Eagle (Calabria).

The Italians are in mid-1940 in a position of relative naval weakness, the Cesare and Cavour are operational. Duilio becomes available July/August but Doria doesn't until the autumn. The first two Litorrio class become operational in August 1940. The French may contribute - depending on whether or not Catapult happened - either just about Strasbourg and some cruisers, or Strasbourg, Dunkerque and a battle-line of 3 or so old Bretagne class. Quite what the value and the outcome of a possible 'Battle of Gibraltar' is would be unknown, I wonder if the Axis would go for it at all.

If the war continues into early 1941 then the British position worsens with the return of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to service early that year.

 

Fuel

As for fuel, in a mid-1940 situation I don't see fuel being a huge constraint. The Axis position in November 1942 is completely different to August 1940. After the Fall of France, Germany was still trading with the Soviet Union from which it could import oil, and did so, for instance selling the unfinished Hipper class Lutzow in April 1940. The Germans were not supporting an army of 3.7m men and thousands of tanks and vehicles in the invasion of Russia in mid-1940, while November 1942 (the Case Anton scuttling) coincides with the battle of Stalingrad and Russian Operation Uranus.

The Italians did start the war with oil reserves for the Regia Marina - 1.7m tons of fuel in June 1940, and burned about 0.1m tons/month for the first 7 months, running down the stockpile by September 1941 - 14 months later. The French had global stocks (including oversees) of 1.1m tons in January 1939, were probably able to increase that somewhat before June 1940 although probably used some - suffice to say in the short term enough fuel was available. That's without German (bought from Russia or Romania) getting involved. (source on fuel figures - On Seas Contested edited by O'Hara).

If the French fleet instead gets captured at Toulon in late 1942 things are different, but for my guess would be at least a year after the French armistice the French, German and Italian navies could likely operate with reasonable fuel abundance.

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14 minutes ago, mofton said:

Fuel

As for fuel, in a mid-1940 situation I don't see fuel being a huge constraint. The Axis position in November 1942 is completely different to August 1940. After the Fall of France, Germany was still trading with the Soviet Union from which it could import oil, and did so, for instance selling the unfinished Hipper class Lutzow in April 1940. The Germans were not supporting an army of 3.7m men and thousands of tanks and vehicles in the invasion of Russia in mid-1940, while November 1942 (the Case Anton scuttling) coincides with the battle of Stalingrad and Russian Operation Uranus.

The Italians did start the war with oil reserves for the Regia Marina - 1.7m tons of fuel in June 1940, and burned about 0.1m tons/month for the first 7 months, running down the stockpile by September 1941 - 14 months later. The French had global stocks (including oversees) of 1.1m tons in January 1939, were probably able to increase that somewhat before June 1940 although probably used some - suffice to say in the short term enough fuel was available. That's without German (bought from Russia or Romania) getting involved. (source on fuel figures - On Seas Contested edited by O'Hara).

If the French fleet instead gets captured at Toulon in late 1942 things are different, but for my guess would be at least a year after the French armistice the French, German and Italian navies could likely operate with reasonable fuel abundance.

Enough fuel for what though?  Sealion?  And this scenario of a combined German-Italian-French Navy is the nightmare scenario for FDR trying to keep out of the war so some US intervention would be anticipated.  The Axis Fleet is on a ticking clock, so what can they achieve with it before oil runs dry?

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16 hours ago, Royeaux said:

The Axis Fleet is on a ticking clock, so what can they achieve with it before oil runs dry?

Same as always.

Defeat.

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19 hours ago, Royeaux said:

Enough fuel for what though?  Sealion?  And this scenario of a combined German-Italian-French Navy is the nightmare scenario for FDR trying to keep out of the war so some US intervention would be anticipated.  The Axis Fleet is on a ticking clock, so what can they achieve with it before oil runs dry?

Well depends on the starting position and how things go after that.

The worst case scenario would in the first place be that Britain simply collapses under the political pressure of being not only without major Allies but stuck in a 3-on-1 with the major powers of Continental Europe and seeks some kind of peace consideration.

If the full combined Franco-Italian fleet can push through Gibraltar and make it to French Channel ports then a Sealion in 1941 is perhaps more of a possibility at the worst case, though I doubt it's that practical and the Germans will still be keen on 'lebensraum'. Alternatively with the French, and Italians able to operate in the Atlantic in greater strength the battle there becomes much more difficult, including use of French ports around the world in the Axis favor.

Assuming that things hold roughly together, if the British can be kicked out of the Med almost altogether that at least makes any Operation Torch in late 1942 tremendously more difficult with knock-on effects for the invasion of Sicily in Operation Husky in mid 1943.

The least-bad case is that Britain 'Catapult's the French fleet and then follows up where it can neutralizing it as rapidly as possible and then endures a somewhat harder Med conflict.

 

It took a heck of a lot for FDR to bring the US into the war, he didn't even declare against Germany until Germany declared on the US. The US sat out for a long time, past the invasion of the Soviet Union, past some of the highest points for the Axis in Europe. I don't know if France turning would generate enough interest to intervene any more than the lend-lease and other support to the UK.

 

My general point was that in 1940 neither France nor Italy were immobilized or in a particularly dire fuel state and that with France entering the war that was fairly likely to continue for a moderate period.

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8 minutes ago, mofton said:

It took a heck of a lot for FDR to bring the US into the war, he didn't even declare against Germany until Germany declared on the US. The US sat out for a long time, past the invasion of the Soviet Union, past some of the highest points for the Axis in Europe. I don't know if France turning would generate enough interest to intervene any more than the lend-lease and other support to the UK.

FDR was a navy man.  In such a scenario, it becomes a question if the British Fleet doesn't end up also under Axis influence if a treaty is made, which would make it almost impossible for the USN to handle a united European fleet and an IJN fleet in the Pacific at the same time.  It's the dynamics of war to not let someone snowball into an unstoppable force, even once peaceful and neutral nations tend get involved to try and restore a balance for the sake of their own sovereignties.  Against overwhelming force, the US would no longer be able to maintain the Monroe doctrine or have much influence on international affairs.   As long as the UK had a chance of fighting the war for the US, then I think FDR would try and maintain neutrality.   But in the case of Navies, I think FDR would act, even without full war support from the public as the very concept of national defence rested on not letting threats surrounded the US.

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On 9/23/2019 at 11:37 AM, Royeaux said:

The problem here is that the Mediterranean isn't that important.  The British didn't need it, the Soviets didn't need it, nor did the Americans need.  It made it convenient for the Allies to invade the Axis, but the resources the Axis critically needed lay outside of the Mediterranean. 

Not quite. The Mediterranean was an extremely important artery of the British empire - there's a reason the British import market only began collapsing after June 1940. The bisection of the British sea lanes meant that the only route for merchantmen lay in a much longer voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, that was still quite hazardous due to Axis submarines raiding in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Denying the use of through traffic to the Allied powers was therefore a major effort for which much of the Axis war effort hinged - it helped reduce the economic weight of Great Britain (who, as it was, was already out-producing either Axis country when it came to aircraft and ships), and enabled the U-boat to have any weight at all. 'Fuel oil in the Middle East' is definitely a red herring for the Axis powers - but seizing the Suez would have been a major victory, especially if it were done in 1940, as it would have effectively turned the Mediterranean into an Axis lake, safe for their sea lanes - which would have been very important if there had ever been a hope of shipping fuel oil from the Caucuses in the needed amounts. It also would have expanded the capability to pursue raiding efforts into the Indian Ocean.

It's also worth noting that it denied the Allies a very convenient supply line to the Soviet Union via the Aegean & Black Sea


 

 

As far as the main theme of the thread - 

I'm going to mostly piggy-back off what @mofton has already said, since I also can't see a situation where the Marine Nationale willingly joins the Axis war effort en mass and for no reason.

 

Considering the major warships;

For the Marine Nationale, there are a couple issues that will reduce their strength on-paper - namely, the fact that their capital ship strength is going to be just short of annihilated. Richelieu and Jean Bart are trapped on the Atlantic coast, the former still not fully complete, and the latter with no hope of being completed (nowhere near complete as it is). Béarn will be locked in Martinique, trapped and generally ineffective. Lorriane, no matter what, is lost - she was part of Force X at Alexandria, and was deactivated by the British. Best case scenario for the Axis, she scuttles herself. Bretagne will be lost at Mers-el-Kébir, and Provence will be disabled along with Dunkerque. This leaves Strasbourg as the only operational French battleship available. 

In regards to cruisers - Force X at Alexandria takes a heavy toll on French cruisers, with heavy cruisers SuffrenDuquesene, and Tourville all being seized along with light cruiser Duguay-Trouin. All six cruisers of the La Galissonnière-class were at Algiers (safe), while at Toulon was three of the Suffren-class heavy cruisers and Algérie. Abroad, Primauguet was at Casablanca, Lamotte-Picquet at Saigon, and at Martinique was Emile Bertin and the training cruiser Jeanne d'Arc.

 

The Force X cruisers are as good as lost, but those abroad could theoretically act as raiders for a brief period, although I suspect the Royal Navy will inevitably shut them down - any of these ships are likely to be lost if they get into a fight with a County-class heavy cruiser. The other cruisers, however, are a valuable contribution if used in concert with the Italian fleet - Algérie's armor would allow her to comfortably integrate into the Regia Marina's 1st Division, made up of the Zara-class cruisers (typically three, with a fourth in maintenance), and the three Suffren-class heavy cruisers, with their poor armor protection, could operate in a similar manner to the RM's 3rd Division (fast but poor to mediocre-ly armored TrentoTrieste, and Bolzano). Likewise, the six excellent light cruisers, with nine 152mm guns, a top speed of 31-32 knots, and armor well suited to defeating 152mm shells, are an invaluable contribution, slotting between the Duca d'Aosta-class and Duca degli Abruzzi-class in capability. The two three-ship divisions (3rd & 4th Cruiser Divisions of the Marine Nationale) effectively doubles the Axis front-line light cruiser strength in the Mediterranean. Strasbourg will be the sole battleship the French can contribute, but it is a welcome contribution to be sure. With a top speed of 29/30 knots, she is capable of keeping up with any of the cruisers, as well as the Littorio-class battleships - something the four Italian rebuilds (Conte di CavourGiulio CesareCaio DuilioAndrea Doria) cannot, with their top speeds of 26-27 knots. While she is not as well armed or armored as the Littorio or Vittorio Veneto, these values are comparable or better than the rebuilds, and this still makes her quite a useful warship (although, like the rebuilds, she cannot withstand the firepower of any of the British battleships).

In terms of lighter warships;

The destroyers will make a significant contribution, able to act as fast raiders, fleet escorts, and perhaps most importantly of all, convoy escorts. Unfortunately, as French ASW capability was quite poor, they won't be able to make a huge contrition in the fight against British submarines. They could find a good niche as fast transports, however - they're even larger than the Italian destroyers that filled the same role. In any case, there will be an excess of such ships given the fact that so many of the larger French warships that were meant to be escorted will be lost...

Ships in British ports (Portsmouth, Plymouth, Alexandria, accounting for two CTs and five normal destroyers) and in Atlantic African ports (Casablanca and Dakar, accounting for two further CT's and another seven normal destroyers - although in the short term they could act as very limited raiders) are as good as lost, as is CT Mogador at Mers-el-Kébir, but 'safe' destroyers (at the time of the armistice, in Mers-el-Kébir, Toulon, Port-Vendres, Oran, Algiers, and Bizerte) break down as;

  • 1x Mogador-class CT
  • 5x Le Fantasque-class CT
  • 5x Vauquelin-class CT
  • 4x Aigle-class CT
  • 5x Guépard-class CT
  • 3x Jaguar-class
  • 3x Le Hardi-class destroyer
  • 6x L'Adroit-class destroyers
  • 6x Bourrasque-class destroyers

Aka, 23 contre-torpilleurs and 15 'normal' destroyers, increasing the available number of Axis destroyers in the Middle Sea by something like 50%

The submarines would prove very useful as well - although French submarines were, for all their on-paper qualities, rather poor in service, they still bring 40 cruiser submarines to the table that can be very useful in the Atlantic. Remember, this is mid-1940 - Germany has relatively few oceanic submarines at this point (in August 1939, Germany only had 21 oceanic submarines), to the extent that more Italian submarines were operational in the Atlantic than German until mid-1941 - so an additional 40 submarines on top of the extra 32 Italian submarines that will deploy to the Atlantic under BETASOM is going to massively increase the number of Axis submarines in the Atlantic at any one time, by a figure of at least 50% (at least, until the Type VII spam begins in earnest).


Setting aside warships for a moment - another important factor is aviation, specifically reconnaissance. The MN operated E (long range maritime patrol) and S (surveillance) squadrons, each squadron being made up of six aircraft. Typically each maritime 'region; (one in the channel/north sea, two for the Atlantic coast, one for the southern French coast based at Toulon, one for the North African coast based in Bizerte, these latter two being the 3rd & 4th respectively) had one 'E' and two 'S' squadrons. The Mediterranean was an exception, with the 3rd Region (Toulon) having six 'S' squadrons (36 aircraft) and the 4th (Bizerte) having three 'E' squadrons (18 aircraft). Generally speaking, the GL 812 was used by the 'S' squadrons,and the Bréguet 512 by the 'E' squadrons. The Lorie 130 was embarked on most major French warships. Unfortunately I lack numbers on the total French reconnaissance force.


This would no doubt be a helpful addition to the Regia Marina's inadequate reconnaissance forces. As of 10 June 1940, some 163 land-based reconnaissance aircraft were operational for the RM, consisting of mostly the CANT Z.501, with twenty of the more modern Z.506 in service (with more built during the war, as well as the Fiat RS.14). Additionally, there were IMAM Ro.43 in service aboard cruisers and the modern battleships. Aircraft assignments were typically divided into squadrons (10-11 aircraft) and sections (2-4 aircraft). Although the RM maintained an absolute minimum requirement of 45 squadrons (~495 aircraft), in reality (aka, what could be procured in spite of the Regia Aeronautica) there was only available 21 squadrons and and 6 sections (equal to 24 squadrons total, for 237 aircraft).

Divisions were as follows (number in parenthesis equals number of aircraft);

  • Northern Tyrrhenian: 2 Squadrons (22), 2 Sections (7)
  • Southern Tyrrhenian: 2 Squadrons (22)
  • Sardinia: 4 Squadrons (42), 1 Section (4)
  • Sicily: 5 Squadrons (53)
  • Northern Adriatic: 1 Squadron (11)
  • Southern Adriatic & Ionian: 4 Squadrons (34), 1 Section (4)
  • Libya: 1 Squadron (11), 1 Section (3)
  • Aegean: 2 Squadrons (22), 1 Section (2).

As I mentioned before - I don't have much in the way of data on total the French naval aviation reconnaissance force - but any help is help, and French air bases in places like Algeria, Tunisia, and Corsica will greatly expand the area the Axis are able to patrol, as well as allow for greater concentration of those reconnaissance forces.


Another major factor is geography. Mofton already covered much of it, but there's a few other points I'd like to add - 

  • It will help Axis shipping to north Africa. A major debate, which Italy had lost, between Italy and Germany over the fate of Tunisia had resulted due to the Italians wanting it for the persecution of the war in north Africa. Not only is the Naples-Tunis 9or Bizerte) route much more secure than the Naples-Tripoli or Taranto-Benghazi/Tobruk route, but it is also much shorter (less fuel needed to burn by all ships), and also increases the capacity of supplies that can be unloaded from convoys - as it was, Tripoli could manage 45,000 tons/month, Benghazi 24,000 tons/month, and Tobruk 18,000 tons/month. Tunis, which had the advantage of also not being bombed (as Benghazi and Tobruk were) by the RAF, could have eased this issue considerably (although transport would remain an issue - from Tripoli to Benghazi alone is 970 km, and everything transported must come by truck, typically done at night with headlights off so as to avoid the punishment of the RAF).
  • French colonial bases can also aid Axis submarines - for example, Diego-Suarez in Madagascar could act as a base for Axis submarines and merchant raiders in the Indian Ocean, greatly expanding their operational ranges and deployment times in those areas.
  • The entire North African coast highlighted by mofton above is hugely important, especially if we have French reconnaissance aircraft flying from it - and there are plenty of fighters and bombers that fled to North Africa. An Algerian coast adequately covered by Axis reconnaissance and aircraft is an utter nightmare - the two biggest roadblockers to Italian efforts to confront convoys in that area were the lack of adequate reconnaissance and lack of fighter cover, respectively (a perfect example being Cape Spartivento). Trying to resupply Malta from the west would be a brutal undertaking, and the potential for Malta to suffer a blitz from aircraft operating out of Tunisia on top of Sicily... ouch.

Fuel Oil is going to be a major issue, at some point. We know this. I agree with mofton that this won't be an issue in the short term - Regia Marina fuel reserves didn't run down until the latter half of 1941 (September).

To provide a brief summary of the Italian Navy's fuel situation, which mofton already covered most of - by June of 1940 the Regia Marina had stockpiled 2,000,000 tons of fuel oil, although at the outbreak of the war, was forced to surrender 300,000 tons to the national industry on the order of Mussolini.

Note; for the figures expressed below, although deliveries and consumption typically over a year period, in 1940 data only includes that after the Italian declaration of war (10 June 1940). Likewise, while fuel stocks typically refer to levels in January, the 1940 figure is reserves as of 1 July 1940 (aka, 20 days of consumption have already occurred). 1943 figures, of course, terminate on 9 September 1943.

lHEy1pY.png

With this for context, it must be noted that any additional operations by the French must consequentially come at a cost to this. The MN, as mofton already mentioned, had reserves of 1,100,000 tons of fuel oil in 1939. The Italians, when France capitulated, expected to have access to a wealth of fuel oil stored by the French, which they believed to exist in great quantities at Toulon. However, they were utterly astonished when they discovered that the MN's fuel reserves in June 1940 were 'bugger all'. France was, like Italy, entirely reliant on imports of fuel oil to survive, as well as lacking the same oil producing concessions available to the British, and before a year had gone by already blown through her pre-war reserves. Vichy & Occupied France in reality was a great drain to Axis oil supplies, and an active French fleet would be an even greater draw (worth noting that French destroyers were very fuel inefficient.


 

Short-term, there's a definite boost to potentially had, assuming the Italians and French can play well together - which isn't exactly guaranteed. However, if coordination can be had, the capacity for the Axis naval forces to reliably find and track British naval forces (and thus successfully intercept them) will certainly increase. There's also a wealth of French merchant shipping to be added to the Axis shipping capacity - if I recall correctly, something like 1,000,000 tons of it was sitting in Toulon in 1942.

However, there's also a healthy amount of liability involved here. The threat of aircraft is well-known within the Mediterranean, and most French ships have very poor anti-aircraft capabilities. They lack a satisfactory heavy AA gun, although that's far from unique (although influenced for the worse by the fact French AA fire control was quite poor) - but this is combined with a totally ineffective 'semi-automatic' 37mm cannon for medium-range AA and a 13.2mm machine gun for close-in. Historically this left French destroyers horrifically vulnerable to Axis air attack, and this will continue to be the case against the British. Any hope of effective anti-aircraft armament for many of the French ships will have to come at the expense of what can be given to them by their allies - which neither can afford to do. 

And, of course - as mentioned, the more active ships there are, there more fuel gets burned...

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Fuel is hardly the biggest issue here.  Even before considering that you have to consider these things and how you are going to manage them.

First, you'll need tens of thousands of trained, skilled, crew and officers to man these ships.  A significant chunk of those have to be reasonably well educated and initial training could take as much as a year to accomplish.  Even after they have learned the basic skills, they'll have to learn the specific operating requirements of the ships they're assigned to.  That could easily take as much as another year.  You can't just march 2000 men onto a battleship and away you go.

Then there are the ships.  Everything's in French.  That's a problem.  You're going to have to re-label every valve, gauge, instrument, sign, etc., on the ship in German.  I don't know if the Germans and French use the same method of designating compartments, but if not that will require re-labeling too.  All the ship's technical manuals and such will require rewriting in German so the crew can understand them.

Then there's non-compatible equipment aboard.  You might have to change out things like radios and other communications gear, or add to what's there.  If you decide to swap out some weapons or systems for German ones, that's yard time.  

Everything from ammunition to spare parts have to come from French sources initially.  If you want to German source them, then you have to redo blueprints and such in German, and then tool up factories to make them.

So, even if the KM acquired every ship in the French Navy it could easily be well into 1941 before any could be used and for the largest and most complex probably not before well into 1942.

Then it becomes an issue of logistics.  Where does the fuel come from?  Where do you get the ammunition?  How much hurt does taking say 20 to 30,000 men out of the Heer and putting them in the KM (you need technicians ashore as well as command and administrative staff in addition to the ship's crews), particularly when say 10,000 of them are ones that would provide skilled support to the army, hurt the Heer?  That's the loss of a couple of divisions worth of men.  Can Germany afford it?  They likely can't afford the fuel.

On another point brought up:

The problem with logistics in North Africa isn't getting the supplies to North Africa, its what happens after you do.  The Germans were very inefficient civil engineers.  The first problem is the issue of ports.  Benghazi could dock 5 or 6 ships at the beginning of the war.  Wartime damage reduced that to 2.  Tobruk was all but unusable due to being cluttered with sunken ships.  Tripoli became the major port and could handle 5 or 6 ships at a time.

So, that limits how much "stuff" you can ship to North Africa based on available dock space.  The next problem is getting it from the port to the front.  The lack of rail and a good coastal shipping system means everything goes by road.  The bad part of that is it's taking many gallons of gasoline in a truck to deliver one gallon to the front by Alamein.  So, a good chunk of your supplies are going to enable you to move a much smaller portion to the front.

The limitation on the number of vehicles available means that supplies often pile up in harbor cities waiting shipment simply because there aren't enough vehicles to move it all.

The US military recognized that problem right from the start of the war.  The US Navy organized a large salvage and harbor clearing force that could quickly and efficiently clear a harbor of wrecks and get it open.  The US Army organized special engineer units to build and rebuild ports, recruiting men that did that sort of work for a living in peacetime.  These port engineer units could build piers, warehouses, quays, docks, etc.  In North Africa, the USN opened all the French ports even as some were heavily sabotaged.

So, more shipping doesn't help the Germans unless they can also gain more port space and increase the available shipping from those ports to the front. 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

Fuel is hardly the biggest issue here.  Even before considering that you have to consider these things and how you are going to manage them.

First, you'll need tens of thousands of trained, skilled, crew and officers to man these ships.  A significant chunk of those have to be reasonably well educated and initial training could take as much as a year to accomplish.  Even after they have learned the basic skills, they'll have to learn the specific operating requirements of the ships they're assigned to.  That could easily take as much as another year.  You can't just march 2000 men onto a battleship and away you go.

Then there are the ships.  Everything's in French.  That's a problem.  You're going to have to re-label every valve, gauge, instrument, sign, etc., on the ship in German.  I don't know if the Germans and French use the same method of designating compartments, but if not that will require re-labeling too.  All the ship's technical manuals and such will require rewriting in German so the crew can understand them.

OP specified:

On 9/21/2019 at 5:34 PM, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

If the Marine Nationale joined the Axis with French personnel and material -snip-
what about a fully loyal Axis Marine Nationale?

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Kind of improbable, but the language issue would persist as would equipment compatibility, and of course, the fuel issue.

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1 hour ago, HazeGrayUnderway said:

Oil.

The biggest "Grabbed by the balls" move of WWII!

Pretty much. Europe as a whole was constantly in a net negative when it came to oil consumption/production since WWI - ironically Germany was the best off in that regard - but the big difference was that the British and French, in the event of a war, could just import it, especially since American oil exports dwarfed pretty much anything else. As @Sparviero said - once it came down to a question of total war, the Axis had as good as lost it. They simply lacked the resources. And the more they conquered, the more the demand for fuel grew.

The only alt history where the fuel issue really 'goes away' is if the Italians discover fuel oil in Libya 10-15 years earlier than they do historically and have the means to acquire it - although, the question becomes; can it feed the Axis demand for fuel oil?

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