Autumn 1942: An Expanded Operation Jupiter is Launched instead of Torch

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Autumn 1942: An Expanded Operation Jupiter is Launched instead of Torch

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:30 pm

In 1942, the Allies contemplated an invasion of Scandinavia through northern Norway beginning in the fall of that year. In hindsight, this seems to me a superior alternative to the invasions that actually took place in North Africa in 1942, and then into Italy in 1943.

From Churchill's "The Hinge of Fate" (Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston, 1950):

pg. 323:
"I had a second alternative plan for which I always hankered and which I thought could be undertaken as well as the invasion of French North Africa. This was 'Jupiter' - namely, the liberation of northern Norway. Here was direct aid to Russia. Here was the only method of direct combined military action with Russian troops, ships, and air. Here was the means, by securing the northern tip of Europe, of opening the broadest flood of supplies to Russia. ...The Germans had got these vital strategic points by the North Cape very cheaply. They might also be regained at a small cost...."

pgs. 350&351:
"13 June 42... First, in 'Jupiter' we can certainly bring superior forces to bear at the point of attack and in the whole region [to be] invaded; secondly, if successful, we get a permanent footing on the Continent of constant value to the passage of our convoys and capable of almost indefinite exploitation southward. In fact, we could begin to roll the map of Hitler's Europe down from the top. ...in the spring of 1943 other landings could be made... The population would rise to aid us as we advanced... The distraction caused to the enemy's movements would far exceed the employment of our own resources. The reactions upon Sweden and Finland might be highly beneficial."

pg. 435:
"8 July 42... [W]e are studying very hard the possibility of an operation in northern Norway, or, if this should prove impracticable, elsewhere in Norway. ...We are having frightful difficulties about the Russian convoys. All the more it is necessary to try to clear the way and maintain contact with Russia."

Although Churchill believed both might be done in the same year, my reasoning for preferring an expanded "Jupiter" over the "Torch" landings is five-fold:

1) As noted by Churchill, such an operation would have given immediate aid to Russia, not only by diverting German military resources, but by making safe the northern convoy route to Murmansk and Archangel. Perhaps the siege of Leningrad could have been broken a year earlier than it was.

2) By "rolling down the map of Hitler's Europe" in 1943 (instead of trying to roll it up from Italy), the armies and resources of three countries could have been turned against Germany; e.i., Norway, Sweden and Finland. Finland would seem an even likelier candidate to switch sides in the war than Italy was, given that Finland had initially been allied with Great Britain and aided by them and by the U.S. during the Winter War. Although Italy did switch sides in the fall of 1943, most of their ground troops were immediately disarmed and marched away to POW camps by the German units fighting alongside them. Thus, Italy contributed almost nothing to the Allied war effort. By contrast, Finland had relatively few German units operating in support of its ground forces, and it's army could easily have turned the tables on any Germany effort to disarm and capture the Finish units. Thus, Finland's whole military would have quickly become available to aid the Allies (including Russia) had they been invaded and convinced to switch sides in 1943 as Italy was in OTL.

3) By battling side-by-side with the Red Army into northeastern Europe (the Baltic States and ultimately Poland and East Prussia), the American, British, Canadian, and Finnish armies would have liberated countries and territories that Stalin had annexed in 1939 and 1940 under the "Hitler-Stalin" Pact. Presumably, these would have become once again independent states rather than being dominated by, or annexed directly to, the Soviet Union. In this way, the world might have completely avoided the 40+ year period known as the Cold War.

4) Finally, without the distraction of Italy (where our troops battled for two years just to reach the Po River by the time Berlin fell) the war might have been won by the fall of 1944. The costly D-Day invasion might have been avoided as well. V-2 rockets might never have come into service and 5,000 civilian lives would have been spared in London, Antwerp and Paris. Also, if the war in Europe had been wrapped up by the end of 1944, the war in the Pacific might have been shortened enough that the Atom bomb might never have been used, thus saving even more civilian lives. Along these same lines, the huge fire-bomb raids of early 1945 (Dresden, anyone?) might have been avoided as well.

5) Torch was unnecessary. All available allied shipping, air power, and ground troops could have been put into expanded landings in Norway (perhaps all down the western coast). The Battle of Alamein was won about a week before the Torch landings began, and Germany's military response to Torch (e.g. the significant re-deployments of Luftwaffe squadrons from the Stalingrad theater to Tunisia) would probably have been matched by a similar response to landings around the strategic Nordkapp.

One might argue that with winter closing in, it would have been foolhardy to attempt landings so far north, where the troops might not be able to get regular supplies, and allied air power might be grounded by wintry weather more often than not. However, the nearer proximity to Allied naval bases in Iceland and Great Britain would seem to ameliorate these risks to some degree, and might even have enabled the time-table to be moved up by several weeks, thus avoiding the nightmare of landing between storms (as Normandy turned out to be in OTL).
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Re: Autumn 1942: An Expanded Operation Jupiter is Launched instead of Torch

Post by DuceMoosolini on Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:34 am

I'll admit, my knowledge about this alternate option isn't that great. However, I do have some concerns about how viable this plan would've been.

1). Norway is pretty darn close to Germany, and much of Germany's remaining naval strength was in that area. Donitz's U-boats wouldn't start suffering really badly until May 1943, so they could have inflicted hell on any invasion force. And remember, the Germans forced the British to give up on Norway in 1940 in large part due to maintaining air superiority; the British had to rely on long range planes, while the Germans air bases were much closer. You cannot invade a country from the sea without air superiority. Normandy was hell even with friendly planes.

2). I don't think there's any major port in northern Norway, which is really bad. Torch focused on Oran, Algiers, and Casablanca because those were port cities, and the Allies knew they needed to supply their troops. The same thing at Normandy; the whole thing was a race between a German response and Allied buildup of war materiel on the Continent. If you're going to fight the Axis, especially on or near the eastern front, you need a huge port to supply your troops.

3). The terrain in northern Norway is pretty bad. I'd bet the well-trained Germans could hold a position in the mountains for a long time. Also, I'm pretty sure Sweden wouldn't risk their whole country by throwing in against Hitler. This sticks the Allies in a bottleneck, trying to fight their way up Norway and into Sweden. (The Allies fighting north through a narrow, mountainous country while suffering horribly sounds familiar...)

4). Hitler figured something like this could happen, which is why there were hundreds of thousands German soldiers in Norway. When Germany surrendered in 1945, there were still around half a million troops garrisoned there. Invading Norway would be just like Normandy but with worse terrain, no air superiority, and no big port.

5). The USA was not ready to go toe-to-toe with Germany in 1942. When Marshall said he wanted to invade France in '42, the British rightfully told him he was being an ass. American troops weren't trained well enough at that point, and America's industrial might hadn't been fully mobilized. Any war on the Continent was bound to be a titanic struggle, one that Britain and 1942-USA couldn't compete in. Torch was executed in part because North Africa was such a comparatively soft target. (And the US Army's performance in Torch was an early warning that they needed to get their shit together before fighting Hitler)

6). Operation Torch was pretty effective, and I'd say it actually had to happen. There were relatively few drawbacks to it, and it accomplished quite a bit.
--Sure, it delayed an actual continental invasion, but an actual continental invasion in 42-43 would've been a clusterf**k.
--It was a dry run for the Western Allies, which they desperately needed to iron out their command differences and (for lack of a better word) "practice" coordinating against a real enemy.
--Losing North African ports pushed the Axis out of much of the Mediterranean, freeing up what HistoryNet estimates to be around 5-6 million tons of shipping, an incredible relief for the battered Allied merchant marine. Not to mention making the Suez safer and therefore shortening many Allied shipping lines.
--Eisenhower's little year-long Mediterranean vacation taught him how to be an effective commander and allowed him to form relationships with British leaders. This seasoned him into a much more effective Supreme Allied Commander who would face down everything Hitler could throw at him.
--It also gave the Soviets more time to beat the crap out of Germany. Not only was America stronger in 1944, the Reich was much, much weaker. (Allied air superiority had also been established over France by then, destroying rail networks and inflicting huge damage on German logistics right before the invasion)

Although I disagree with you on whether it would have worked, I think this idea is pretty interesting to think about, and I'm not sure why I didn't see this before now. I've never heard of Churchill's idea for invading Norway before. Thanks for showing me something new.
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Re: Autumn 1942: An Expanded Operation Jupiter is Launched instead of Torch

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:00 am

Hmmm... Outstanding, well-thought-out reply. Lots of info to mull there...

Crushing the German Navy (which had been breaking up convoys to northern Russia) would have been a positive of this operation in my estimate. But it probably would have required suspending operations in the Solomon Islands at a critical time there in order to transfer adequate carrier forces to the North Atlantic to accomplish the objective.

This I had contemplated, and weighed the consequences of. What you point out, DuceMoosolini, and which I had NOT thought of, is the proximity to German air bases! Carrier based squadrons have a finite and limited total number of aircraft to work with. Germany at the time was at the height of its relative air power.

Southern Norway would have been unapproachable. Germany could project much more air power there than the US and Great Britain, not to mention the major air fields in Norway itself. My thought would have been that places like Narvik and Tronhjeim could have been seized instead of Algiers and Casablanca. But, with Germany controlling air bases right across the mountains, they could have projected far more air power even into those areas than the allies could have, even with carriers recalled from the Pacific (a strategically questionable idea at best).

This leaves just Churchhill's most conservative goal of seizing uninhabited coastal areas immediately adjacent to the Nordkap with a small number of Canadian troops. Again, there is the matter of the Luftwaffe to deal with, for there was a significant effort under way to take Murmansk (from northern Finland), or at least render its port unusable through air strikes. The German units tasked with this operation would have been available to counter allied landings at the northern tip of Norway.

As far as allowing extra time for the Soviets to "beat the crap out of Germany", I saw this as the strongest advantage of the expanded Jupiter plan. By providing direct aid on the battlefield at a time when Russia sorely needed it, the Allies might have forestalled Stalin's vision of a Communist controlled eastern Europe.

Yes, this would have meant taking heavier casualties. Again, shared sacrifice... But I think the advantage of land bases would have given the Luftwaffe the upper hand anywhere in Scandinavia in 1942.

Sucks tho... would have been cool if it could have been done.
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