about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


Steve Cole ponders 10 more ways that World War II might have turned out very differently. (See Random Thoughts #213 for the first 10 and #217 for the second 10.)

1. The US might never have developed a nuclear bomb. Maybe they (like the Germans) decided it was impossible? Maybe they were still trying to get it to work and ran out of time? Anyway, an invasion of Japan (given the lessons of Okinawa) would have been a very expensive undertaking with at least a million dead American soldiers and sailors. And that invasion only envisioned capturing 1/3 of Kyushu and the area around Tokyo, assuming that this alone would force the Japanese to surrender. Given the Japanese mindset, that is just not all that certain. The US might have found that the invasion of Kyushu was so expensive (in lives) that no invasion of Tokyo followed. They might have captured Tokyo at such a terrible price that there would have been no will to spend another million lives capturing the rest of the country.

2. There were so many attempts to assassinate Hitler that any of them could have had a major impact, but all of them would have been resolved in two ways. Himmler would have taken power in a bloody internal battle and fought to the end like Hitler did. Alternatively, relatively sane generals might have taken power and tried to negotiate a peace. The German fantasy of peace with the US and Britain so they could keep fighting Russia wasn't likely to happen, nor was it likely that the Russians would have agreed to any result that left Germany intact. FDR had already declared the goal was "unconditional surrender" which to the Germans meant that Germany would cease to exist as a nation.

3. Stalin might not have purged his military during 1937-39 and had a competent officer corps to keep his Army from falling apart during the first weeks of the German invasion.

4. FDR might have been less friendly to Russia. Justly criticized for being soft on communism, FDR had the idea that if we treated Joe Stalin nicely and shipped him as much aid as we could that he would stop murdering his own people and give up plans to occupy half of Europe. (This policy has never worked toward any of the communist dictatorships.) FDR might have held back on aid and let the Germans and Russians kill as many of each other as possible, then agreed to British plans to invade the Balkans and keep the Russians out of Eastern Europe. FDR could have put conditions on aid to Russia (such as allowing freedom of religion or promising an independent Poland) but refused to do so.

5. Stalin might have believed everyone who kept telling him that Hitler would attack in 1941. Stalin was so anxious to avoid (or at least delay) a war with Germany that he forbade any preparation for it out of fear it would provoke one.

6. Stalin might have left the pre-1939 border defenses (pillboxes, bunkers, and other defensive lines) intact, rather than ordering them blown up or dismantled. This would have provided a stronger second defense line against Operation Barbarossa.

7. The British could have been more aggressive. While Montgomery is often criticized for his lack of aggression, it was actually not his fault. British government policy was to hold down British casualties (by taking more time to assemble supplies and bombard the Germans with artillery) and British units simply never displayed the kind of aggressive tactics that the Germans, Russians, and Americans used (with the sole exception of O'Conner's brilliant African operation). The failure of the British Army and Montgomery to take Caen on D-Day, to close the Argentan-Falaise gap, to close the German escape routes from the Scheldt Estuary, and to rescue the paratroops at Arnhem are all examples of a lack of aggression that ended up costing more casualties than they saved. Montgomery's crossing of the Rhine in 1945 was grossly overproduced; the Americans had already crossed the Rhine on the run at several locations.
8. Stalin might have not been such a paranoid maniac and not murdered most of his own generals in 1937-1939, giving his army competent leadership during the first six months of the German invasion.

9. Hitler might have gambled by concentrating his offensive during the initial invasion of Russia in the northern half of the front, leaving the southern half to follow along as it could. Without the diversion of Guderian's tanks to the south to trap a huge number of Russian troops, the Germans might have reached and taken Moscow and Leningrad before the Russian troops in the south could have been redeployed.

10. Hitler might have stripped other theaters to concentrate more firepower for the initial invasion of Russia. He just didn't have enough troops. Faced with a choice (July 1941) of grabbing Moscow or encircling the southern half of the Russian Army, he simply lacked "one more field army" that could have allowed him to do both. When he made the final push for Moscow (September 1941) he had to strip units from the Leningrad front (leaving that city uncaptured) when one extra field army would have done the trick. There were plenty of divisions doing more or less nothing on occupation duty in France and other countries.