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Thread: almost 100 years since Italy betrays Germany and Austria-Hungary

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    almost 100 years since Italy betrays Germany and Austria-Hungary

    We are just over a month out from Italy declaring war on the Central Powers. This could be a very interesting what-if.

    1. Italy entering the war forced the AH Armies to fight a two front war which fatally weakened them against the Russians. A stronger AH might have beaten back the Russians and maintained enough political stability to survive the war, and relieve the need for the eventual German occupation of Russia to be solely German meaning more troops for the Western Front.

    2. An allied fleet of 10 A-H/ Italian dreadnoughts would have outnumbered the French and may have forced the British to divert part of the Grand fleet.

    3. Possible small alpine front with France would have diverted at least some French troops and that could have impacted operations on the Western Front.

    4. 3 million Italian-American voices added to German-American and general isolationist voices might have been enough pressure to keep the US out of the war and this would have profound repercussions on global history.

    5. British need to reduce Italian colonies would impact troop strength in either the Levant or Western Front or both.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    4. 3 million Italian-American voices added to German-American and general isolationist voices might have been enough pressure to keep the US out of the war and this would have profound repercussions on global history.
    A question tangentially related to this point. The Economist claims:

    “Germans were not part of the colonial aristocracy,” says Rüdiger Lentz, director of the Aspen Institute Germany. Many Italian and Polish immigrants were middle-class, and they quickly became politically active. German immigrants tended to be poor farmers, which is why they headed for the vast fertile spaces of the Midwest. “The Italians stormed the city halls; the Germans stormed the beer halls,” went the saying.
    Ref: http://www.economist.com/news/united...silentminority

    Is this claim correct?

    I always thought that the Germans had a normal distribution of immigrants -- many poor peasants, but also a good number of middle-class farmers, craftsmen and businessmen, and a even a few rich bankers and industrialists. And 18th C Pennsylvania Dutch and Germans had trail-blazed the European settlements into the Ohio Valley, and movement into the Mid-West was a natural progression as more immigrants came from NW Europe. In contrast middle-classes were almost non-existent in Poland and Italy, and most immigrants were from the peasantry. Also the South and Eastern Europeans (and Irish Catholics) had no pre-blazed routes of movement and faced significant anti-Catholic sentiments, and hence clumped around cities longer.

    And getting back on topic, since German and Italian unifications had happened relatively recently back in their home countries - and without much democratic participation, did the immigrants even feel any strong political connections to the nationalist passions that consumed Europe just before WW-I?

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    Depends on at which time. The early 18th century saw pretty much only richer people emigrating to the USA, while in the 1850s to 1880s there was a mass emigration "of all kinds" - but mostly poorer people; in the 1880s, i.e. the mass emigration generation that by WW1 was the last to have been born in Germany, it was mostly industrial workers (fleeing from the Bismarckian anti-socialist laws).

    The Great Plains were mostly settled by German-Russian farmers who were evicted from Russia starting in 1872, but those, while speaking German, hadn't had any connection with the German Empire for about a century.

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    The German community in America was very much pro-Kaiser in the war, but they were vastly outnumbered by WASPs.

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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The Great Plains were mostly settled by German-Russian farmers who were evicted from Russia starting in 1872, but those, while speaking German, hadn't had any connection with the German Empire for about a century.
    I've heard of German-Russians in substantial numbers in one or two of the Canadian provinces, but it's not the case for the Midwest. Virtually all German immigrants were from Germany proper.

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    The immigration from "German proper" (well, not quite) was a result of freeing the slaves... err, serfs in the 1840s and the resulting overpopulation in the 1860s. Most of these were from the rural fringes of Prussia, i.e. either from outside the Old Empire (from Posen or Pommern, the parts that would later become Polish) or from Frisia (not ethnic German, currently a recognized ethnic minority). Minnesota for example was mostly settled by Frisians.

    The same overpopulation at the same time also was how Prussia came to attack, overcome and since 1867 occupy Germany itself.
    Last edited by kato; 09 Dec 17, at 19:37.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The immigration from "German proper" (well, not quite) was a result of freeing the slaves... err, serfs in the 1840s and the resulting overpopulation in the 1860s. Most of these were from the rural fringes of Prussia, i.e. either from outside the Old Empire (from Posen or Pommern, the parts that would later become Polish) or from Frisia (not ethnic German, currently a recognized ethnic minority). Minnesota for example was mostly settled by Frisians.

    The same overpopulation at the same time also was how Prussia came to attack, overcome and since 1867 occupy Germany itself.
    I've never heard of Frisians in Minnesota. I'm curious as to where you're getting your information.

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    My novice opinion as follows:

    'The entry of Italy into the war on the side of the Central Powers would have been a blow to the Allied cause and would have complicated/delayed the result but in the end that result would have been the same. Italy's border with France is too narrow to be conducive to a major advance into southern France and Italy can't easily get troops to Egypt, the Lebanon or Libya to assist Turkey which is their next best option. It's true that with no Italian front Austria would have had resources freed up for use elsewhere but that 'elsewhere ' is the Eastern front not the Western front and given the less than brilliant performance of the Hapsburg armies in the field (I know there were exceptions) the result at best is Russia being knocked out of the war sooner - but not that much sooner.

    From France and Britain's perspective there is no Gallipoli campaign (probably for the best) and also no Greek/Balkan expedition (also probably for the best). Instead their efforts (if any) would be directed towards a potential sea born invasion of Italy. And the prospect of such an invasion (successful or not) would have gone a long way towards limiting Italy's ability to release forces for use elsewhere.

    End result a longer and bloodier war with the same outcome once the US enters - given the fact that historically the political and social momentum (in the US) was for that country to enter the war on the side of the Allies rather than Germany. So assuming all factors other than Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers remain the same the end result is largely the same, albeit after a longer and bloodier struggle.
    Last edited by Monash; 10 Dec 17, at 23:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    My novice opinion as follows:

    'The entry of Italy into the war on the side of the Central Powers would have been a blow to the Allied cause and would have complicated/delayed the result but in the end that result would have been the same. Italy's border with France is too narrow to be conducive to a major advance into southern France and Italy can't easily get troops to Egypt, the Lebanon or Libya to assist Turkey which is their next best option. It's true that with no Italian front Austria would have had resources freed up for use elsewhere but that 'elsewhere ' is the Eastern front not the Western front and given the less than brilliant performance of the Hapsburg armies in the field (I know there were exceptions) the result at best is Russia being knocked out of the war sooner - but not that much sooner.

    From France and Britain's perspective there is no Gallipoli campaign (probably for the best) and also no Greek/Balkan expedition (also probably for the best). Instead their efforts (if any) would be directed towards a potential sea born invasion of Italy. And the prospect of such an invasion (successful or not) would have gone a long way towards limiting Italy's ability to release forces for use elsewhere.

    End result a longer and bloodier war with the same outcome once the US enters - given the fact that historically the political and social momentum (in the US) was for that country to enter the war on the side of the Allies rather than Germany. So assuming all factors other than Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers remain the same the end result is largely the same, albeit after a longer and bloodier struggle.
    Pro-CP

    With Italy joining the CP, German and Austrian U-boats have much better access to the med. Several French divisions have to be withdrawn from the Western Front to secure the Franco-Italian border from repeated assaults by Cardona. The combined threat of Austrian and Italian dreadnoughts would over-match the French fleet and force the RN to detail a battleship division or 2 to the Med. This wont weaken the Grand Fleet, I doubt they would send dreadnaughts, but would hurt the Channel Fleet or delay the decommissioning of old battleships to provide crews for ASW escorts. If there is no Gallipolli campaign, the Ottomans have a lot more troops to add to the defense of the Levant and war in Russia. Attaturk may never come to prominence and this may ultimately preserve the Ottoman Empire. In Russia the combination of more Austrian and Turkish troops and increased allied pressure to help take pressure off the Western Front may well speed up the collapse of the Romanov's, or at least tempt the Czar too seek a separate peace. Bulgaria, Greece and Romania have a lot less reason to jump in. The combination of the early departure of Russia and peace in the Balkans would mean Germany has new sources of grain and less pressure to resume unrestricted submarine warfare delaying American entry into the war.

    Pro-Allied

    The UK and France would not have to send Italy mountains of supplies, guns, planes and eventually troops. With no Gallipolli or Greece, over all the allies end up with more troops on the Western Front. With a shortage of escort crews caused by the retention of old battleships, the convoy system may get adopted quicker. Vera Brittain's brother Victor may survive (though that would deny the World the Testament of Youth).

    Overall without Italy as an allied power the war is likely to last longer and be a much harder slog for an allied victory that is not at all a foregone conclusion.

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    basically in OTL Italy served as nothing more than a big sponge of casualties from Austro-Hungary. given the performance of both the Italians and the AH, this would likely be a wash. no Gallipoli would probably have been a bigger contributor to Entente fortunes than the loss of Italian troops/gaining of AH troops for the Central Powers.

    especially as Italy probably would have soaked resources from the Central Powers too.

    besides, as the Entente is on the defensive, the resources saved from an offensive operation would be able to allow them better defense/reserve in case things go south on the Western Front.

    OE probably comes out of the war in a better fashion, and Italy will probably get stripped of all colonies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    basically in OTL Italy served as nothing more than a big sponge of casualties from Austro-Hungary. given the performance of both the Italians and the AH, this would likely be a wash. no Gallipoli would probably have been a bigger contributor to Entente fortunes than the loss of Italian troops/gaining of AH troops for the Central Powers.

    especially as Italy probably would have soaked resources from the Central Powers too.

    besides, as the Entente is on the defensive, the resources saved from an offensive operation would be able to allow them better defense/reserve in case things go south on the Western Front.

    OE probably comes out of the war in a better fashion, and Italy will probably get stripped of all colonies.
    I think the need to keep old battleships in service will be the biggest impact. The lack of crews for escorts will force the convoy system earlier and this might delay US involvement by as much as 2 years. The second biggest impact is an intact grain trade in Eastern Europe that helps Germany meet its caloric needs. The combination of less moral outrage forcing Wilson to jump in combined with a radically less effective blockade may well lead to a situation where the Entente is more willing too cede some lands to Germany. France may well agree to the formation of the Kingdom of Poland and the occupation of Belgium to get the occupied areas back.

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    As I see it the timing is the key issue. If the British and French can mount a naval expedition against Italy and Austria before those those two powers manage to co-ordinate and organize their fleets for joint campaign then the central powers will be at a distinct disadvantage in the Mediterranean (and my money is on the Anglo-French being in a position take the initiative sooner than the their opponents.

    For a start I have had a look at one source which listed the forces available to both sides as follows (excluding British Dreadnoughts and Battlecruisers) I assume they are not deployed to the Mediterranean given the pressing need to contain the German High Seas Fleet, I also assume most if not all of the combatants listed are available for immediate deployment);


    The Allies

    Dreadnoughts: 4 (France)

    Pre-dreadnaughts: 60

    Armored Cruisers: 53

    Protected Cruisers: 61

    Light Cruisers 20 (all British)

    Italy and Germany

    Dreadnoughts 6 (three each)

    Pre-dreadnoughts 14

    Armored cruisers 9

    Protected Cruisers 14

    Light cruisers 5

    Now I don't for a minute presuppose that Britain is in a position to release more than a fraction of the lighter units listed here given its global responsibilities at the time but the point is it doesn't really have to. With the exception of Dreadnoughts Italy and Austria are badly outnumbered terms of ligher combatants. France alone had some 28 protected and armored cruisers available as opposed to 23 on the part of the two Central Power combatants. And France would feel a much greater urgency to commit forces to the Mediterranean front than the English.

    Then geography comes into play. British and French forces sortieing from ports on the French Coast can reach the exposed coast of Western Italy before Italian and Austrian forces in the Adriatic can respond. The Allies are in a position therefore (if they move quickly) to attack Italian Naval Bases on the West Coast of Italy before Italy can respond. If they get in first they can inflict severe damage on any Italian forces on the West coast before help can arrive and even if they don't succeed in attacking before the Italians and Austrians can combine anything even approaching a '50:50' loss rate will result in both sides having to withdraw their capital ships for reequipping and repair. And that is the key differenc, the allies have such a large advantage in lighter units (cruisers and destroyers) that even should their capital ships not be immediately available for support they are still in a position to launch raids in force against every port on the Italian west coast from Portofino in the North to Sicily - and the Central powers can't stop them.

    U boats aren't a real issue at the start of the war either because Austria only had a small number available and those had only limited success against allied vessels blockading Austrian Ports in the Adriatic, they had little or no impact in the Mediterranean proper. As for Germany it only started to deploy U-boats to the Med later in 1915.

    The Allies can also 'threaten' to launch a seaborne invasion of the Italian peninsula once their campaign against the West Coast has started. Play it smart, offer generous terms for their withdrawal from the war on the side of the Germany and Austria (including no loss of overseas territory) and the Italians would probably opt to accept an armistice given the alternative which is the bombardment of every port, city and town along the West coast with no real prospect of preventing it from occurring.

    I also believe this is a likely to succeed because Italy's commitment to the Allied war effort was historically somewhat reluctant from the beginning. (And I say that not-withstanding the terrible price they paid in blood on the Austrian front - regardless of what side you were on in WW1 everyone paid the price.) I simply think that assuming Italy did enter the war on the side of the Axis powers there is no more reason to think their commitment to that cause would be any more resolute than it was to the Allies cause. Which means given a viable out they would probably take it asap. The end result is I think, as I described above, a slightly longer and bloodier war with the same outcome.
    Last edited by Monash; 13 Dec 17, at 20:43.

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    Found this to help your figures Monash

    Name:  naval-strength-19141.jpg
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Size:  103.4 KB

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Thanks, that was the table I used, Good website to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    Thanks, that was the table I used, Good website to.
    Are you sure? You seem to have the French playing a far more important role than they did...Just trying to help ;-)

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