WWII Q: Instead of Normandy, why not go through Spain?

Yes, I know that Spain was considered a non-belligerent, but apparently only declared its neutrality in July 1943, in an obvious effort to hedge its bets. Since Franco was an open Axis sympathizer, why would the Allies have any qualms against landing on the Spanish coast on their way to France? Seems to me that they would have had considerably more justification than the Germans did when they used Belgium as a similar route to the same goal.

Was the idea ever floated? Did the Nazis have defensive measures in place for this contingency? Why didn’t it happen?

First, I’ve not seen anything in my readings to indicate that there was any serious talk of a European invasion through Spain.
At least part of that could be laid at the feet of the Pyrenees mountains that run the border between France and Spain. My understanding is that, while they are not the match of the Alps, they’re a signifigant barrier to easy troop movements, and even more so for contested logistics. If you look at the photo in the Wikipedia article, they do seem to extend from coast to coast, so there’s no avoiding them to choose your invasion route post Spain.

Additionally, why invade a neutral country, which had, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a well-trained military when the time required to fight through said country would allow the true enemy to fortify the passes in the mountains between your neutral country and it’s own territory.
ETA: Speaking of logistics, while the Allies had to build their own ports on Normandie, the logistic situation was simplified considerably by the ability to use English ports for transhipment. AIUI it was September 1944 that the first of several fuel pipelines were laid connecting the UK to the supply bases in Normandie - which could not have been easily, nor quickly, accomplished with Spanish ports.

Spain would NEVER have allowed it in the first place (they’d just had their own bloodbath and profited too much from trading with both Axis and Allies). In the second place they were heavily armed, plus Spain is a very big country of deserts and mountains (among other terrains) to cross in the third. It’s very far away from England where the Allies were strongest in Europe- and just crossing into Normandy (straight across the Channel) required not only the greatest armada ever envisioned but incredible new technology to position and dock and supply that many men and ships.

Catching the Nazis unaware at a place they didn’t expect invasion (at least not nearly as much as they expected it at Calais) resulted in a blood bath in which Tom Hanks and John Wayne were both nearly killed. Imagine if the Nazis had the advance prep time of knowing that an armada has docked off of Spain and is slowly moving across land and mountains towards them through a country who doesn’t want them there and can probably be pretty easily encouraged to fight against them before they ever get to Vichy.

Moral and political considerations aside: Losses and cost of taking on (and then having to occupy) a whole country (of ~25 million people at the time) vs. losses and cost of establishing beachheads in Normandy?

One more point: you can’t compare violating Belgium’s neutrality with the idea of violating Spain’s neutrality. First off, because of the speed with which Belgium fell there was no time for France to reposition it’s armies in response to the German thrust. Second, I don’t believe Belgium had much of a military.

Neither of those things would have been true with an invasion through Spain. If the Spanish contested it at all - which I think is guaranteed: Franco, as you say, was such an open Axis sympathizer there’s no way he’d have believed that he’d be left in power if the Allies were allowed into his country - it would have matched the difficult fighting that the Allies had trying to break out of Normandie. The fact that Franco had a veteran army cannot be overlooked, either: the time it would take to defeat that force would have allowed time for the Germans to reposition.

As Sampiro hints, the Allies put a great deal of effort into spoofing the Germans into thinking that the Allied invasion would be coming towards Calais, and still there was a huge Allied bloodbath in what was supposed to have been (from the German perspective) a quiet backwater. There would have been no possible way to spoof an invasion through Spain - and the routes from Spain to France are all well known, and narrow. Which means easily blocked.

Finally, unlike France and much of Europe, I’m not sure that the Spanish people would have accepted an Allied invasion. Franco’s supporters would never forgive the attempt to keep him out of power, and Franco’s enemies would never have been able to forget that, when things didn’t end quickly in the Spanish Civil War, the various “free” nations let Franco’s victory stand. Advancing through partisans territory is hard. Pushing combat logistics through active partisan territory is very hard.

OtakuLoki: thanks for the links. I hadn’t really considered that the Pyrenees would be that great of a barrier.

tschild, would occupation of the entire country be necessary? I was only thinking how the Allies might be able to circumvent the Atlantic Wall. Presumably once a foothold had been established in southwestern France, Spain could be abandoned.

It turned out that it didn’t take that much effort to breakthrough the Atlantic Wall. The allies suffered 10,000 casualties on D-Day. For a war on the scale of WWII that’s barely a blip. If you look at a map of Europe, southern France really gets you nothing. To the East is Italy and Switzerland. The thrust of an army coming across Spain would be north towards Paris and the channel ports. Better just to take the short boat ride across the channel.

One more point about circumventing the Atlantic Wall. While never completed to the degree Rommel envisioned, the physical defenses were formidable. But without the troops in place to back them up, or to push any successful landing back into the sea, they were more or less a paper tiger.

And so Allied high command instituted Operation Fortitude to convince the Germans that the need for an extant port would require the Allies to land and take Calais. And it worked so well that even as late as September 1944, the Germans were still refusing to transfer units from their reserve around Calais to suppress or contain the beachheads at Normandie.

(Though the deception work was incredibly effective, and very, very well done, I don’t believe that the strategy would have been able to work, in the end, if the Allies hadn’t come up with methods of creating harbors on Normandie to make the facilities at Calais redundant. And the fact that the techniques were almost all new meant that the Germans had an institutional inability to believe that an invasion could be supported through Normandie - which acted wth Operation Fortitude in a positive feedback loop to keep them focused on the perceived Allied need to take Calais.)

We shouldn’t forget Spain’s infamous exploding paellas.

The allies had already taken half of Italy by the time of the Normandy landings, so Spain would be something of a step backwards. In addition to all the good points already mentioned, Spain also didn’t figure in the ‘get there before the Russians’ stakes.

No cites - I’m going from memory of a radio program - but Churchill did ask a general about this, possibly with the idea of landing in the friendly country of Portugal. The general dutifully got his staff to look into this, reported back that it was not feasible, and then gave Churchill a bollocking for wasting his time.

I’m sure there are Dopers with better knowledge.

Abandoned? Like Iraq now you mean? To abandon Spain after managing to get them back up in arms (and they’d just had a lot of practice) would have meant leaving a lot of bodies behind.

The Pyrenees do run through all the French-Spanish border. The Basque Mountains, while less high, are a bitch to pass. Nowadays the highway from Pamplona to San Sebastián, a kind of road for which the nominal speed limit is 100km/h has stretches for which it’s 40km/h… moving through places like that with artillery isn’t much fun.

Note that the people from the areas through which that invasion would have had to pass have risen in arms against Madrid between 4 and 8 times between 1808 and 1939, depending on the region. For some of those, “let’s clean up Gramps’ old gun” wasn’t so much a joke as a Tradition.

:rolleyes: uh, yeah. just like hitler, bush is teh suxx0r

Yeah, that’s why it’s called war. BTW, I don’t know why anyone is getting the idea that I was suggesting the Allies should entice the long-suffering Spanish people into a partisan revolt to throw off their chains. If I were the Allied general in this scenario, I’d only be concerned whether the locals would resist or get out of my way.

Anyway, it looks like geography and terrain would have prevented this idea from ever getting off the ground.

As for Quartz’s anecdote about Churchill–very interesting–if he did have an idea of making an end run like that, I wonder if had any resonance with his disasterous plans for Gallipoi in WWI.

Your childish reaction aside, Nava was very reasonably trying to point out that wiping out the regime and then waltzing out of the country would be a disaster. The experience in Iraq has demonstrated that absent competent planning, “liberating” a country can leave the population worse off than they were before.

When did I say the Allies would be wiping out the Franco regime or “liberating” the country? All I proposed was establishing a beachhead on Spain’s northern coast and making an end-run around the Atlantic Wall.

Furthermore, in the extremely unlikely event that this did somehow cause the Franco regime to collapse of its own accord and the country to collapse into anarchy, in what way would this be a “disaster” in regard to the paramount goal of reaching Germany and fighting Hitler on his own soil?

And don’t we have plenty of precedents in the Pacific theater of Allies island hopping through territories whose ultimate fate we didn’t give a whit about? It might not be nice, but neither is war, and it didn’t do anything to harm our stated objectives.

This is what concerns me sometimes–even in the context of General Questions, some people are so absorbed in their own time and place, and their own petty positions of the day, that they can’t objectively address a historical question that, believe it or not, has nothing whatsoever to do with Bush or Iraq.

Most importantly, Franco’s “support” for the Axis basically went as far as sending a volunteer unit to fight the Russians. That’s about it. Hitler standing over the Pyrenees made him nervous, too, and he largely staye dout of the fighting because he saw a lose-lose situation if he did. But in practical, of course, “support” for the Nazis cost him nothing and made his country safer.

The Allies did invade Morocco, but the circumstances there were totally different.

Punching someone in the nose, then turning one’s back to him is not always a good idea.

Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, occurred on August 15, 1944, (talk about coincidences!), just 70 days after Overlord put the troops in Normandy. This was accomplished without having to violate Spanish neutrality, crossing the Pyrenees, adding an Overlord sized logistics situation to the already messy Mediterranean Theatre (and warning the Germans that we would be coming. based on the size of our build-up). It also permitted Overlord to be launched in the North, placing the Germans in France in a pincers while an invasion from Spain would have left the retreating Germans with a single line to defend.

Omaha Beach notwithstanding this is correct. The British landings went smoothly as did the landings at Utah Beach. Even though there were a lot of screwups in the parachute landings, they did manage to isolate the landing area and create a lot of confusion among the Germans as to just what was going on.

Northern France was a much shorter logistic route than Spain and there were several good ports that were finally cleared and used for supplies.

I never said you did. I was taking exception to your juvenile response to Nava’s comparison of an invasion of Spain to that of Iraq, and so was explaining what she was saying.

And yet you were the one who immediately took her comment as a swipe at Bush, despite the fact that she never mentioned him or his administration. Do you feel that your response was a reasonable and warranted reaction to the fact that you don’t agree with her comparison?