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Thursday, December 10, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on the many ways that World War II could have taken a very different direction during 1941.

1941, March, Hitler talks sense to Mussolini: The failed Italian invasion of the Balkans (and Egypt) delayed Operation Barbarossa by six weeks and was one of several things that cost Hitler the war. Invading Russia on 1 May instead of 22 June, the Germans could have reached Moscow before the start of winter (and before the Russians could have risked pulling troops away from the border with Japan). Moscow would have fallen, and with it Stalin and (probably) the USSR.
1941, April, Hitler gives Russia another year: While Hitler wanted to attack Russia as soon as possible, many of his generals argued for a year's delay. During that year, the massive forces that surged into Russia would have been able to easily grab Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Syria, and probably even Iraq. Britain would perhaps have been forced out of the war, leaving the US permanently on the sidelines. The German Army would have been stronger (and had better tanks) for an April 1942 version of Operation Barbarossa. However, the Russians would have had a year to repair the damage caused by Stalin's purges and replace all of their tanks with T-34s. Hitler might well have lost the overall war somewhat faster, leaving Russia in control of Germany and France.
1941, June, Hitler the Liberator: With the invasion of Russia comes the German announcement that they want to liberate the Russian people from communism, not conquer them as lower-class humans. This would have given Hitler another million troops (Russian volunteers), wrecked the morale of the Soviet Army, and collapsed the USSR. With that done, Hitler could have then said: "I lied, you've been conquered, now move out of the way of my German colonists." The Liberated Russians could not have done anything about it.
1941, August, Japan invades the USSR: The Japanese Army wanted to declare war on Russia and seize the Russian far east before pursuing a war against the US, but the Japanese Navy won out with its promise to cripple the US in one blow at Pearl Harbor and secure a negotiated victory. Had the Japanese Army invaded Russia and the Japanese Navy delayed the Pearl Harbor mission for a later time, Russia's Siberian troops would have stayed in the east, Moscow would have fallen (and with it, Stalin and probably the USSR). A victorious Hitler could have made some kind of deal to rule Europe in peace while the Japanese attacked the Americans in 1942. Then the US and Germany could fight World War 3 in 1955.
1941, December, Pearl Harbor: The US had plenty of long-range patrol aircraft at Hawaii to fly out to carrier attack range in a full circle every day. They did not do so because they did not envision that the Japanese would launch an attack that far from Japan. (They expected the attack to come in the Philippines.) Peacetime complacency and budgets meant that the patrols were not flown. Had they been, the Japanese carriers would have been detected. Even if the attack went ahead, the US would have been alerted and losses of ships and aircraft minimized.
1941, December, Hitler isn't stupid: The single dumbest thing Hitler ever did was to declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor. There is no plausible reason for doing this, but then, understanding Hitler's thought processes was never easy. The thing is, the US (other than FDR) wanted no part of "the European war" and without Hitler's declaration the US Congress would not have agreed to war with Germany. The British might have held on with American aid, but the Congress might have stopped FDR from selling war materials to Russia on credit. Britain cuts a deal, Russia falls, and the US and Germany fight World War 3 in 1955.