Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stripping the Middel East of forces

Churchill and the commanders at home seemed to have an exaggerated view of what the forces in the Middle East theater could accomplish. Commitments were made to Turkey that were very difficult to meet, given the situation from December 1941 onwards. Conversely, General Auchinleck was worried about scenarios that in the end, were not a danger. He was constantly worried about a German attack south into Syria from the Caucasuses. I must admit that when the Germans reached Rostov on Don, the chances were improved that they might go further. The whole picture on the south-eastern front changed with the battle at Stalingrad. That battle finished the German offensive and threw them back into a defensive posture. In any case, the preparations to aid Turkey meant that Iran (or Persia, as Churchill preferred) and Iraq were left without any anti-aircraft defenses. In addition, two anti-aircraft regiments (one light and one heavy) were sent east with the Australian divisions. By this point, there were indications that the 9th Australian Division would be withdrawn, as well. The British 70th Division was sent east in March 1942. They commanders at home also wanted to pull a division from Iraq to go east. Substantial air power was pulled from the Middle East, as well. When the Axis forces rebounded in early 1942, the British position in the Middle East was left in extreme jeopardy. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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