Thursday, July 14, 2011

Span Am War- Foreign Intervention part II

BlueBearJeff asked me to finish off this train of thought so here goes.

The Hapsburg empire had the closest ties to Spain (the Queen Regent was a Hapsburg Princess) and therefore was the most likely to back Spain for diplomatic reasons.  However, in naval terms they basically had diddly-squat (to use a precise term) of use to Spain - old ironclads, coast defense ships and cruisers- and its difficult to see any of these having any impact on the war.  The Austrian cruiser Maria Theresa did accidentally appear at the tail end of the battle of Santiago, and was nearly set upon by the US Navy before she was correctly identified.  However, there might be the possibility of the Hapsburgs applying diplomatic ties to other European powers (e.g. Germany) especially if the US did fire on their ships.

Along with the French, the Germans represent the two best options for foreign intervention - both in real terms and game terms.  Unlike other powers, the main interest for Germany would be acquiring an empire.  Therefore it's likely that a Hispano-German alliance would be based on transfer of Spanish overseas possessions to German control.

Germany provides a useful battle fleet that could give the US a run for its money, with supporting cruisers and torpedo craft (but no U-boats yet).  They would be involved on both the Caribbean and Philippine theatres, Admiral Dewey famously threatening to fire on a German cruiser flying the flag of a Crown Prince in Manila Bay.

The challenge for Germany would be to get their fleet into the Caribbean to provide active support.  I suspect that this would involve transferring the fleet first to the Canaries and then across to Puerto Rico or Havana.  However, it is also possible that they would pressure the Danes or Dutch to allow use of the Virgin Islands or Dutch Antilles respectively.  However, this gives a very good campaign option sure to challenge both the US and German commands.

It's early days for a US-Japan naval rivalry, but the Japanese fleet was among the best in the world and hot off an overwhelming victory over China.  Obviously Caribbean intervention is not practical but intervention in the Philippines was certainly possible.  The Japanese couldn't match the US battle fleet but their cruisers could overwhelm Dewey's force and give the US a nasty shock.   Also they had a very good torpedo arm.  Now the US is faced with sending a large expedition across the Pacific to save face.

Oddly similar to the Japanese in this case - might intervene in Asia but not in the Caribbean. Again they couldn't math the whole fleet but could give a shock locally.


  1. Hi Peter,

    I really enjoy a good naval 'what if?' and the reasoning you have listed all seems quite plausible. I am wondering though, should anybody have come out in support of the Spanish would this have prompted some support from somewhere for the USA?

    I hope all went well with the grand cook up, packing and 5 1/2 hour drive (each way as I recall!) and that you have suitably recovered!

    All the best,


  2. Once again, Peter, some nicely reasoned points - particularly with regard to the practical realities of such interventions - I take your point about the weakness of Austro-Hungarian forces, but such reasoned logic was never really part of the Twin Monarchy's make-up! That said, I think in games terms, a few light cruisers extra would not make for a very interesting game, perhaps just delaying the inevitable.

    You throw up a really fascinating idea with Japan, though, hadn't thought of a potential expansion for them toward the Philippines - a sort of early 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere' perhaps.....

    I certainly think that battleships like Fuji and Yashima, even a rushed-into-service Shikishima would make quite an impact.

  3. DC

    Thanks for the note. Yes there certainly would be a case for pro-US intervention, especially if the UK turned out for Spain. However, at this point we're going beyond the Span-Am war and moving towards an early WWI or a repeat Napoleonic Wars.

    Yes the delivery went well. The bad news is that it's a 3 week camp. So this weekend we do the first re-supply run. Let's hope the convoy gets through with minimal intervention from the Luftwaffe (flying stones) and U-boats (pot holes).


  4. Steel

    The Japanese intervention could really play out well. Japan had a smaller fleet, but otherwise held a lot of cards. They had a base at Taiwan, a good cruiser force and an effective torpedo fleet. Plus they had aggressive commanders and well trained crews.

    Enough to give the USN a hard time.


  5. Thanks for posting your thoughts for me (and others). They give me some interesting things to think about.

    -- Jeff