Why didn't Germany invade Turkey?

After having taken over all of the Balkans, why did the Germans stop at Greece and not continue to invade Turkey? What were German relations like with Turkey? Invading could have opened a new path to the Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus after all.

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One big reason was that the Italians were considering invading Turkey. There is a video on it on the WW2 Channel, but I can’t find it right now.

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By the way, welcome to the forum!

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The given reason why Hitler didn’t invade Turkey was 2-fold. Firstly, Italy had been given “dibs” on it as part of their new Roman Empire, as it was on the Mediterranean. Secondly, it may have sent Stalin into panic mode, and prematurely launched the Red Army, according to the thinking of Germany’s high command at the time. This was unlikely to be true, as Stalin notoriously didn’t want to damage the alliance with Hitler, and refused to believe Germany was going to attack.

Of course, there were also numerous logistical problems associated with an invasion of Turkey, such as shipping supplies across the Bosphorus without ships, and the fact that Turkey has very mountainous terrain that is well suited to guerilla warfare, and ill-suited to rapid armored operations of the sort that the Wehrmacht favored. While the Turkish army was hopelessly antiquated at the start of WW2, the nation courted both the Allies and the Axis and became a hotbed of espionage. Had Hitler invaded, there is a strong possibility that the British would have sought to intervene to help Turkey, but This would have further divided their forces in the Middle East between those fighting in Egypt/Libya and the new Turkish front.

The fact is, had Hitler invaded Turkey he could have swept into Iraq (British Puppet) and Iran (Neutral), potentially stripping Britain of control of Middle Eastern oil supplies. He could have then used that oil to power up a new attack on the Baku oilfields as part of an Operation Barbarossa kicking off in 1942 or 43. This may well have won Hitler the war, if the Germans had maintained good logistics. It was Hitler himself who prioritized the Baku oilfields, as he was well aware that he was running out of fuel reserves, and this famously led to the Battle of Stalingrad. It would have been a very different state of affairs if a German army had attacked the Soviet Caucuses from an Occupied Turkey, already in control of all the Oil reserves of the Middle East, won from the British Empire.

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German logistics during the war were poor all around the entire war. I encourage you check up on this on your own time.

Nazi Germany would not have won the war by invading Turkey. Suggesting that they should have done this is because of hindsight we in 2021 have. We know that operation Barbarossa was a failure, thus any other option is preferable in our mind. We have to remember that the Nazi leadership were convinced that the soviet Union would fall in a few months as shown on the regular episodes.

Plus, Europe was more concerned about food shortages than fuel and invading Turkey would not have helped this crisis, turning it into a potential disaster. The Western side of the USSR also had fuel to be taken in Estonia and Ukraine. The Nazis got more than 3 million tons of oil from Estonia alone. Ukraine also supplied half of the coal used by Germany during the war once they occupied it. So resource wise, invading Russia in June 1941 was the best solution available to the Nazi leadership.

Another argument is that Turkey was not a country well suited for the German army with its hilly terrain and only one possible bridge to cross into Anatolia from Mainland Europe. The USSR or British could have easily destroyed that bridge making impossible for the Germans to move men, supplies or captured oil from Anatolia or the Balkans. Turkey had no oil production so invading them would not have bought immediate gains and the German army ran out of fuel by august 1941. Turkey would have most probably helped the allies win the war faster.

One last thing I’ll mention, The British and USSR both had armies next to Anatolia and it would have been impossible that they wouldn’t have send them into turkey to fight a long protracted guerilla war where Hitler would have most probably lost since the royal navy controlled the Mediterranean sea.

Here are some sources that will allow you to dig into why invading Turkey was not a good idea all around:
|Beevor, A. “The Second World War.” Phoenix, Kindle 2012.
|Edgerton, D. Controlling Resources: Coal, Iron ore and Oil in the Second World War. Pdf.
|Fritz, S. “Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East.” University Press of Kentucky. 2011
|Hayward, J. “Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East 1942-1943.” University Press of Kansas, 1998
|Hitler, A. Mein Kampf. Jaico Publishing House, 2017.
|Hitler, A. Zweites Buch (Secret Book): Adolf Hitler’s Sequel to Mein Kampf. Jaico Publishing House, 2017.
|Hitler to his generals, June 1941, from documentarytube.com/articles/top-10-quotes-from-world-war-ii
|Gilmour, J. “Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin: The Swedish Experience in the Second World War.” Edinburgh University Press, 2011
|Müller, R. Enemy in the East: Hitler’s Secret Plans to Invade the Soviet Union. I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. 2015.
|Shirer, W. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Pan Books, 1964.
|Tooze, A. “Wages of Destruction: The Making & Breaking of The Nazi Economy.” Penguin Books, 2007.
|Toprani, A. Oil and Grand Strategy: Great Britain and Germany, 1918-1941. Georgetown University, 2012. Dissertation, Pdf.
|Toprani, A. The First War for Oil: The Caucasus, German Strategy, and the Turning Point of the War on the Eastern Front, 1942. The Journal of Military History 80 (July 2016): 815-854
|Ziemke, E. “The German Northern Theatre of Operations: 1940-1945.” Pickle Partners Publishing, Kindle 2014 (original 1956).
|“Allied Relations and Negotiations With Turkey,” P7-8. from US State Department https://1997-2001.state.gov/www/regions/eur/rpt_9806_ng_turkey.pdf
|FĂĽhrer Directive 32 (11th of June 1941) from FĂĽhrer Directive 32 - Wikisource, the free online library
|Toprani, A. “Oil and Grand Strategy: Great Britain and Germany, 1918–1941.” YouTube Video, 10 December 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgxEBGAXNRU

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Many thanks :pray: for the wealth of sources you present and welcome to the forum :+1::+1::+1:

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While I concede your “hindsight” point, I would debate many of the other points you suggest.

I agree that most logistics (not just German) during WW2 were pretty terrible, and the Bosphorus could have become a terrible bottleneck, but it was a classic site where airpower concentrated in a small area, as well as submarine nets, and mine sweepers would have kept the British from cutting supply in the small, narrow waterway quite effectively. The situation would not have been ideal, but it seldom if ever was, for anyone during the period, and it would have been manageable.

As to Barbarossa, well, it seems that only Hitler actually understood what the priorities of Barbarossa really were, and that was OIL. If Germany had captured the Middle East as a matter of priority, much of his oil problem would have been solved, and creating a pincer against Egypt by invading a deeply under-prepared Turkey, and the Italian/German forces in Libya would have placed tremendous pressure on the British; far more than they could have handled, given that they were barely able to deal with Rommel alone in 1942.

As to Turkey aiding the Allies, yes they would have tried, but their army had remained at WW1 technology and doctrine levels. Simply put, even with the advantages of the hilly terrain, they would not have been able to match the German Infantry, especially the Gebirgsjaeger. While Turkey is not ideal terrain for Germany’s tank-heavy doctrine, the ordinary infantry would have been more than a match for Turkey, especially given the internal ethnic dissent in Turkey.

Of necessity the British needed to defend the Suez Canal against the Axis in Libya, and so they would have had difficulty in providing Turkey with the support it needed, and this is doubly enforced by the issue that the British Infantry had not experienced notable success against German infantry during the war up to this point. The reverse is more true.

It is also more than fair to point out that Stalin was simply not willing to countenance the possibility of Hitler invading the USSR prior to Barbarossa. Stalin may have been displeased by a German occupation of Turkey, but would not have opposed it. And once the Germans had occupied the Middle East, having access to its oil, and closed the Suez canal, a Barbarossa that begins with the Germans invading directly into Soviet Azerbaijan and grabbing Baku and its oil fields would have crippled the USSR’s ability to resist German armor on the broader invasion front. This would have allowed an early and more successful “Fall Blau” and while some people suggest that Hitler’s economic advisors were wrong in telling him that he couldn’t continue to wage the war without those resources, I think this analysis has some serious legs to it, as it is widely acknowledged that lack of fuel cost Germany the war. Had a Caucuses front been open from day 1 of a March 42 or 43 Barbarossa campaign, eventually joining up with the Southern front around Stalingrad, having captured Baku, the Soviet oil production would have been reduced by 80%, while the German tank tactics would have proven far more sustainable, being supported by the bulk of Eurasia’s oil reserves.

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Main priorty of Operation Barbarossa was first destroying the bulk of Red Army in a series of encirclement battles in Belarussia , Ukraine and Baltics till September 1941 and drive the rest from East Prussia /General Goverment Polish frontier till Urals and “destruction of Soviet state and warmaking potential” as an entity. The grainfields , minerals of Ukraine and oil of Caucaus was second important prioty of course but first priorty was also securing Ploeisti oilfields in Roumania where German industruy and Armed Forces drew %60 of ts oil consumption and where Red Army was dangerously came close proximity after occupying Roumenian territory in Beserabia in November 1940-January 1941.

First you secure your already existing enegy resources and destroy main reserves of enemy army before advancing to capture enemy’s energy resources.

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With all due respect, where are your sources to support your theories? These are wild claims if you don’t even prove they were feasible, which they weren’t.

Here is also a point where you contradict yourself : If the point of Barbarossa was to capture oil because Germany was so desperate for it, why would they even consider invading turkey? Turkey has no oil whatsoever and the Germans would have run out of it in the middle of the Turkey campaign. Since Ukraine and Estonia both had oil, Hitler would have still invaded Russia first.

Stalin not reacting to Hitler invading Turkey is pure nonsense. The Turkish straits were already a major strategic consideration of the USSR, simply look into the Montreux Convention and Stalin reaction to it. . While Stalin refused to admit reality when Hitler was preparing Barbarossa because his own country was not ready for war yet, he knew that it was inevitable and many of his decisions reflected this. Since Turkey was never part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, an invasion would have most probably caused a Russian reaction even a full on retaliatory invasion by a prepared red army. Hitler would have never risked this.

The bridge over the Bosphorus could have never been protected from all attacks. First, it is more than doubtful that Turkish forces wouldn’t blow it up on the way out. Second, even if Germany managed to rebuild it, even an full on air army and the entire kriegsmarine would not have been able to keep it alive. I am genuinely curious as to why you think that it was a classic site where airpower as well as submarine nets, and mine sweepers would have succeeded. WW2 is full of examples to show it would not. Look into the successes of the Italian and British navies special operations in the Mediterranean. The British air operation against German dams, etc. Finally, Russia would have blown it up with their black sea fleet at the start of a war with Germany if the Brits or Turkish resistance didn’t pull it off yet, that is unavoidable.

Lastly, let’s say that through some miracle Hitler was able to invade Turkey successfully, knocked out the brits from Egypt and Syria, that Iran managed to stay neutral and that no one thought of blowing up the bridge over the Bosphorus. How would the Germans move troops and supplies to and from the Caucasus through the most underdeveloped infrastructure in the world? The Germans were historically bad at moving stuff causing widespread famine and coal shortage in Berlin since the start of the war due to transportation issues only. I encourage you read up The Most Valuable Asset of the Reich: A History of the German National Railway, Volume 2, 1933-1945 by Alfred C Mierzejewski to understand this correctly.

I repeat, the German Reich was so bad at logistics that they had their Arian race run out of coal and food in Berlin itself while their warehouses was drowning in the stuff simply because they couldn’t get their rail system to work properly.

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I guess I also have to give a defense of the Turkish army. Turkey is the only country that was able to resist colonization by force of arms alone. They fought off the French, British and Greeks by themselves and won. The Greeks also only had WW1 equipment and were deeply divided internally yet look at how much damages they inflicted on the axis.

An invasion against a Veteran Turkish army in a country meant for guerilla actions would have been painful for the axis. Probably just as bad as Napoleon invading Spain in long therm consequences.

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Especially considering the fact that Hitler was in hurry to start Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and invasion of Balkans adventure already delayed invasion of Russia schedule from May to June 1941 appox six weeks. He could not wait till 1942 since Red Army was reorganising and retraining in 1941.

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Now that I think of it why didn’t Hitler secure the middle east first and then invade the soviet union. There was zero chance the soviets would break the pact after the purges. Or is it because the window of opportunity was closing and let us say they invade next year, then the Germans would have a hard time?

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Didn’t Indy mention in the regular episodes that no matter what Hitler could not have invaded no earlier than June. At 7:34 in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p0xLd8FqkU he sites John Keegan so why it could not have happened.

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I’m just going to copy paste my previous arguments since they reply to this question effectively:

Stalin not reacting to Hitler invading Turkey and the Middle East is pure nonsense. The Turkish straits were already a major strategic consideration of the USSR, simply look into the Montreux Convention and Stalin reaction to it. While Stalin refused to admit reality when Hitler was preparing Barbarossa because his own country was not ready for war yet, he knew that it was inevitable and many of his decisions reflected this. Since Turkey was never part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, an invasion would have most probably caused a Russian reaction even a full on retaliatory invasion by a prepared red army. Hitler would have never risked this.

Another argument is that Turkey was not a country well suited for the German army with its hilly terrain and only one possible bridge to cross into Anatolia from Mainland Europe. The USSR or British could have easily destroyed that bridge making impossible for the Germans to move men, supplies or captured oil from Anatolia or the Balkans. Turkey had no oil production so invading them would not have bought immediate gains and the German army ran out of fuel by august 1941. Turkey would have most probably helped the allies win the war faster.

How would the Germans move troops and supplies to and from the Middle East through the most underdeveloped infrastructure in the world? The Germans were historically bad at moving stuff causing widespread famine and coal shortage in Berlin since the start of the war due to transportation issues only.

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aah… so due to transportation issues they couldn’t move an army from germany to the middle east.

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A slight correction. There was no bridge across Boshorups in 1930-40’ies. First Boshorups bridge was constructed in 1970’ies.

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Great information to have, thank you!

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Hi liessem_tobjorn

I have actually explained my points above, and I would encourage you to re-read my post.

Firstly, you point out that an attack on Turkey to get oil is foolish as Turkey has no oil. That is true, but it also ignores the point I was making. By taking Turkey, the Azeri oilfields like Baku become much easier to reach if Germany goes to war against the USSR, but more importantly, the other active oilfields of the Middle East in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Persia are effectively opened up to German attack, as the British are stretched thin in the region and cannot defend the Suez canal, and the entire Middle East against a German/Italian attack from Libya and from the North through Syria/Palestine etc.

Secondly, Stalin insisted in the face of all intelligence that Hitler was not planning to attack the USSR, and actually sat on his hands for 2 weeks trying to pretend that Barbarossa wasn’t happening, because he thought it was a British ploy to get him to fight Germany.

Thirdly, there was no bridge over the Bosphorus in the 1940s (that was completed in 1973), nor did I suggest that the Germans should have built one. I simply said that as it is a small concentrated area, it would be more possible to defend it, especially with airpower. Any fleet trying to operate in such a small area would have been easy prey for sea minefields and air attacks.

Fourth, Persia (not Iran yet) was not very neutral. Persia felt very threatened by the USSR and the British Empire, and with good reason. Both powers had established spheres of influence in Persia. The Persians had also been declared Aryans by the Nazis, and Iraq tried to rebel against Britain in 1941, to go pro-Axis. There was strong pro-Axis sentiment in the region, partly as a response to British Imperial occupation, and also due to anti-Jewish sentiment after the Balfour Declaration etc.

Fifth, Yes, German logistics were terrible, mainly due to their foolish policies regarding Germany’s rail network, and yet they managed to conquer 80%+ of mainland Europe, and ultimately nearly beat the USSR. Clearly supplies were getting through to the German military despite the bottleneck. If you look more closely at the logistics of WW2, both the Allies and the Axis are terrible at logistics. The USA unequivocally had the best logistics of WW2, and even they repeatedly ran into problems. Back to the example of Turkey, there is zero doubt that Germany could have occupied Istanbul quickly, and while the Bosphorus would represent an obstacle, Germany would have air superiority, and thus would be able to use paratroops to establish a beachhead on Anatolia, and seize a port against a Turkish army that simply wasn’t ready for a 1940s style of warfare. Undoubtedly Turkey would have engaged in irregular warfare, but they couldn’t hold their population centers in the face of the Wehrmacht.

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Minor nitpick, but it was officially Iran by '41.

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Hi merdiolu,

You have correctly identified the tactical objectives of Barbarossa, but not the long term strategic aims of the operation. Why was Hitler going into the USSR? Pure ideological hatred? Lebensraum? Not really. While Germany could rely on Romanian oil, and their own synthetic fuel production, the bulk of their oil came from the USSR’s Azeri oilfields like Baku. When Hitler is later required to choose between attacking Moscow or going south, locking up Stalingrad, and occupying the Caucuses to try to get at the oil fields, he chooses the oilfields. Had Hitler occupied Turkey and knocked out the British Middle East Mandate before starting Barbarossa, he would have had Middle East oil, and easy access to the USSR’s southern oil fields, as he could have invaded from Turkey’s eastern border into Armenia and then into Azerbaijan, without needing to fight a Battle of Stalingrad.

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